The Breakfast Table

How To Make a European Quilt

Dear Clive,

I have very radical views on Europe.

I am an enthusiast for the single currency and for political union. I think there needs to be a large currency area to balance the dollar. I think, however, the single currency will work only if there is a substantial increase in the community budget and much more effective mechanisms for redistribution in Europe as a whole. This is, I know, quite contrary to the current philosophy of the single currency and the relatively conservative conclusions of Agenda 2000. Especially in the context of enlargement, I would like to see big increases in structural funds.

How would this be financed? One option is tax harmonization, but I would prefer to see Europe-wide new taxes–which aim at the consequences of globalization. Hence I am in favor of some sort of Tobin tax, a transmission tax on the commercial use of the Internet to offset information asymmetries, and a carbon tax.

None of this, of course, could happen without a reformed commission, a more effective parliament, and greater public involvement in European affairs. The crisis over corruption was, I felt, a positive step in this direction. The demands of the Balkan crisis (and this might be the only positive outcome) might pull Europe further in this direction.

Incidentally, did you see that Prodi took a scheduled flight from Brussels to Gatwick, a train from Gatwick to Victoria, and a taxi to 10 Downing Street? According to the Guardian, officials were delighted at his modest style and felt that he really does represent a new broom.

It is a relief to talk about brooms and not Kosovo. I fear most other topics–Northern Ireland, India, and Pakistan–are depressing, too.