09 November 2018

Germany and the EC

There is a popular theory that the EU is run by Germany and/or France.

Possibly the European Commission is dominated by a coalition of individuals having disproportionately German or French nationality. However, the idea that the EU state is controlled by a subgroup of nations seems outdated.

In 2017, Germany's Ministry of Finance published a highly critical review of the EC's approach to state aid. The publication pleads for restraint in applying the state aid rules to taxation, and talks about a need to respect legitimate expectations.

At one point the authors refer to a "mutual understanding among member states [not to] distort trade". The message seems to be: state aid legislation was just a means for us to agree to respect the ideal of the single market. We made it up, so we shouldn't have to suffer from it — at points where it doesn't match our objectives.

The notion that the EU is still just a civilised club of countries, which can agree to restrain the state aid law juggernaut, seems appealing but overly sanguine.

The EU apparatus has moved well past the stage of acting simply as supervisory authority. It is now a fully fledged state in its own right, with its own agenda, and the power to order individual countries to change their behaviour. It is probably beyond control by any subgroup of nations, let alone any one nation.

Edited extract from 'legal opportunism and the collusion of powers'