The current generation of EU leaders, including David Cameron, must revive Winston Churchill’s vision of a United States of Europe says José Manuel Barroso
By Bruno Waterfield, Brussels
5:30PM GMT 08 Nov 2013
David Cameron and other European Union leaders need to show the same political courage and vision of Winston Churchill’s call for “a kind of United States of Europe”, José Manuel Barroso has said.
The European Commission president has urged the EU of today to emulate the wartime British Conservative leader’s call, made in a 1948 speech, for deeper integration in Europe.
“He was a man of foresight with an acute sense of history, often ahead of prevailing opinion, never shying away from saying what some might choose to ignore,” he said.
“In today’s fast-changing world, we certainly need the same geopolitical intelligence and strategic vision. We need the same courage to think beyond the immediacy of the next news cycle.”
In comments that will be seen as an implicit criticism of the contemporary British Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, Mr Barroso called on the current generation of European leaders to show the same Churchillian vision and courage.
“Churchill rightly said in 1948: ‘We must aim at nothing less than the Union of Europe as a whole, and we look forward with confidence to the day when the Union will be achieved’,” he said.
“We need to resist vested interests and short-termism. We need to have the courage to think ahead and be able to project and shape change – that’s what leadership is about.”
Martin Callanan MEP, the leader of Mr Cameron’s European Conservatives and Reform group, said: “Barroso’s comments perfectly illustrate the failings of the EU elite: they are clinging to 1940s federalist ideology that does not work in the 21st century. The attitude that only more European integration is the answer has ironically been the greatest cause of division across Europe over the past 20 years.
“Churchill also said that ‘Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.’ On that basis EU federalist ambitions have been a great success. ”
Nigel Farage, the leader of Ukip, accused the commission president of “hijacking a single phrase by Churchill” and taking it out of context “to paint him as a fan of political union in Europe”.
“Churchill was the man who spoke of the importance of English-speaking peoples, the Commonwealth, and an island nation determined to stop the German-domination of Europe,” he said.
“Churchill once said, ‘If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea’. Hardly encouraging words for the commission.”
Separately, a former German Chancellor warned that Britain is the major problem facing the future of the EU and the measures it needs to take in order to survive as a bloc.
Gerhard Schröder, Germany’s Social Democrat Chancellor before being beaten by Angela Merkel in 2005, blamed Britain for the financial crisis that engulfed the eurozone and for blocking the EU measures needed to put things right.
“The problem has a name, and that’s Britain. As long as the British block these moves, nothing will happen,” he said.
“We can assume that Britain is no longer willing to join the euro area. Countries that are not in the euro area cannot prevent greater integration. It’s tough but you cannot say ‘I will not be there but I want a say’.”
The former chancellor’s views are important because the Social Democrats are currently holding talks with Chancellor Merkel to form a new governing coalition for Germany, a development that could damage relations with Britain.
Mrs Merkel is sympathetic to David Cameron’s calls for the EU to be reformed but the Social Democrats, that she will soon be sharing government with, are deeply hostile to the Prime Minister and British Euroscepticism.
“The EU’s political structure cannot remain static,” said Mr Schröder, at an economic forum in Bregenz, in western Austria.
“We need to press ahead with Europe’s political unity, towards a kind of European federation.”