December 12 1991: Maastricht Treaty hailed as great leap forward despite Major concessions

European leaders, spearheaded by Chancellor Helmut Kohl, yesterday hailed the results of the Maastricht summit as a great leap forward in an irreversible process of integration and played down concessions granted to John Major.

French and German politicians closed ranks to present Britain as the great loser of the 31 hours of intense negotiations on economic/monetary and political union while underlining to a sceptical public opinion that Britain would be forced to join in fully sooner or later.

But Dr Kohl’s euphoria about his success in imposing the German model of currency union was punctuated by open expressions of disappointment, not least within his own Christian Democratic Union, about the relatively meagre progress in establishing political union.

In a radio interview, Dr Kohl said it was a “huge success” to have written into the monetary union treaty perhaps even stricter standards for the European central bank than those applying to the Bundesbank, and Germany’s interests had been fully met.

His heir-apparent, Wolfgang Schauble, leader of the joint CDU and Christian Social Union parliamentary group, said the future European currency would be at least as stable as the mark. But Count Otto Lambsdorff, the FDP chairman, and a bevy of industrialists insisted it was too early to talk of the end of the mark.

The Chancellor claimed to have made a breakthrough in several areas of political union, including a start to a common foreign policy, but admitted that Germany had been forced to give way on key issues like the European Parliament and accept compromises. There was anger he had not secured 18 extra seats for east German MEPs.

Asked if Mr Major had not emerged as the clear winner, Dr Kohl declared that the Eleven had clearly not conceded so much to the Prime Minister. “We did not yield to his demands as regards social policy… We simply did not want the treaty to break down on this issue.”

The Chancellor and his political allies believe that by the 1996 revision conference at the latest, the British Government will have changed its tune on social policy, the rights of MEPs and other transfers of sovereignty to the European level.

In France, where mainstream politicians viewed the outcome as an irreversible strengthening of the EC, Britain was seen as having missed the train as usual. Bernard Bosson, secretary-general of the Social Democratic Centre, said Britain would run behind and jump on in three or four years’ time.

Only the extremist National Front condemned Maastricht as, in the words of its president, Jean-Marie Le Pen, a “suicidal policy” on the way to a federal European super-state beloved of socialist technocrats in Brussels.

“Those who will impose this will betray the French nation,” he declared. Spain welcomed the acceptance of its demand for a greater transfer of funds from richer to poorer members, known as cohesion.

“The goal of social and economic cohesion, crucial for us, was a great victory for Spain and Europe,” the public administration minister, Juan Manuel Eguiagaray, told reporters.

Full article: December 12 1991: Maastricht Treaty hailed as great leap forward despite Major concessions (The Guardian)

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