The overriding priority for the European Parliament's centre right EPP group is the ratification of the new EU constitution. So says the group leader Hans-Gert Pöttering at a briefing organised by the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies, telling group members that: "For the EPP, the European constitution is our priority of priorities."
The EPP is, of course, the EU parliament’s political group which includes the Conservative group, of which the Eurosceptic Mr Daniel Hannan – to say nothing of Roger Helmer – is a member. Although the Conservatives hide behind the figleaf of being part of the EPP-ED, and therefore claim they are not bound by core EPP policies, no such distinction is made on the EPP website, or in the group’s policy statements.
One wonders, therefore, what the Conservatives would make of Pöttering’s "relief" at the comfortable French socialist victory in favour of campaigning for a "yes" vote in a national referendum, and his claim that the first major hurdle on the road to ratifying the constitution had been successfully negotiated. Would they agree with his view that: "A 'no' vote would have been disastrous," and his happiness that French socialists had voted for the constitution?
Equally, one wonders where they stand with Pöttering’s avowed determination to "fight until the very end to get a 'yes' vote for the constitution". And, with the Conservatives pledging to fight the constitution, would they share his worries that the road to ratification - especially in key referendums in the UK, Poland and the Czech Republic – "would be a difficult one"?
Are we to hear a statement from the Conservative group, completely rebutting Pöttering’s comments and disowning the EPP policy? Perhaps Mr Hannan, with his undoubted writing skills, would like to draft it, for the Conservative group leader, Jonathan Evans, to issue as a press release. We look forward to publishing it on this Blog.