Time to take a break from the beef crisis and the IGC. Where better than Badia Fiesolana-resting place of mediaeval monks and retired Eurocrats.
In the valley below, the city of Florence in all its Renaissance glory; on the hill above, the secluded village of Fiesole. Badia Fiesolana in San Domenico is home to the European University Institute (EUI), a sort of Euro-campus which attracts bright graduates from all member states and professors looking for something short of the 40 hour week. The campus echoes to the sound of French, German, Italian, Spanish and English. European civil society in the making?
The institute offers courses in history, politics and the law; more interesting is the Robert Schuman Centre, an offshoot set up in September 1993 and headed by Yves M?ny, a Frenchman who has written a book on political corruption in France and is an acknowledged expert on fraud-one of the few growth businesses in the EU.
M?ny would like to launch a new research centre for public policy in the EU; he already has professors lined up. His problem is that the sugar daddies at the European commission see the Schuman centre as the EU’s own private think-tank.
So we come to a ticklish subject in Fiesolana and other Euro-campuses such as the College of Europe in Bruges: the struggle between academic independence and a rich patron intent on spreading the gospel according to Monnet-Delors.
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in brussels, this is a wrestling match where the referee would rapidly declare no-contest. There are only two “think-tanks” in Europe’s capital worthy of the name-both, curiously, headed by Brits. Peter Ludlow, whose Euro-patter is as smooth as his bald head, runs the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS). The slightly odd Stanley Crossick heads the rival Belmont Policy Centre. Both Crossick and Ludlow are self-confessed Euro-federasts, always willing to peddle the official line. Ludlow steers clear of Crossick’s more overt commercial activities, at the cost of periodic funding crises. CEPS, incidentally, is so close to the European commission that it uses the same recorded tune on its call-wait telephone service.
In the incestuous world of Euro-academia, it’s no surprise that Ludlow once did a tour at the EUI. He criticises the six years’ limit on tenure there, arguing that it kills the chances of an “institutional memory” developing such as in the British civil service. Most students in Badia Fiesolana would disagree. Without rotation, professors would grow fat and happy on pasta and chianti, turning into lazy tyrants, as at normal universities.
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not everyone is marking time in San Domenico. One newcomer is Claus Dieter Ehlermann, the former head of DGiv, the competition watchdog at the European commission. Known as Der flinke Claus (speedy Claus), Herr Ehlermann is an assistant professor at the institute’s law department; an honorary research fellow at (where else?) CEPS; and the newly appointed EU representative on the disputes panel of the World Trade Organisation.
Ehlermann’s latest campaign is to create a new European anti-trust office which would strip powers from his former employers at the European commission. He can rely on the support of the German government and the Berlin Kartellamt.
Another supporter is Giuliano Amato, the former socialist Italian prime minister who is head of Italy’s cartel office and a visiting professor at (where else?) the EUI. Amato’s saving grace is that he is funny. He ran Italy’s 51st government since the last war, and took several courageous decisions such as scrapping wage indexation for Italy’s public sector. He also shared Britain’s humiliation on Black Wednesday when Italy, too, was forced to pull out of the ERM.
Amato recalls trying to persuade the French to support a general realignment of all European currencies against the Deutschmark. No deal. So he telephoned John Major to drive home the message that the lira and other second tier currencies such as sterling were doomed to devalue. As Amato tells it, the call ended with Major ruling out a devaluation of the pound. “Good luck, Giuliano,” said a smug prime minister. Within 24 hours, both the lira and sterling were floating outside the ERM, next to a capsized Tory government.
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talking of monetary union, the odds are increasing that Emu is going ahead on schedule in 1999. Germany cannot live with the overstrong Deutschmark; the French are committed no matter what the price in unemployment; and everyone’s forgotten Black Wednesday.
Insiders say the summit decision on which countries qualify will take place in April 1998, under the British presidency. History beckons for a New Labour government. Are you ready, Tony Blair?