A LEADING EU mandarin has described David Cameron as a “hobbled” prime minister in a speech in which he blasted the state of the continent and declared that “Europe is ripe for an overhaul”.
Günther Oettinger described Bulgaria, Romania and Italy as “essentially ungovernable” and derided Eurosceptic MPs in the British parliament as “unspeakable backbenchers, his English Tea Party” – a reference to the right-wing protest party in the United States.
Mr Oettinger is a leading member of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party, his nation’s EU energy commissioner and a former state premier of the wealthy state of Baden-Württemberg. His comments have sent alarm through the corridors of power in both Brussels and Berlin as he is a firm believer in the European project and not a man to ignore.
His remarks come as Mr Cameron faces pressure from within his own party on Europe. The Prime Minister has offered to hold a referendum on British membership of the union by the end of 2017, after the UK Independence Party saw a massive increase in its support at local elections in England.
The Prime Minister has also promised to “renegotiate our relationship with Europe, to make the European Union more open, competitive and flexible, and then to offer the British people something they haven’t had for decades: an in-out referendum. It’s a very clear, very decisive policy.”
Mr Oettinger pulled no punches in his speech on Tuesday night to a German, Belgian and Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce meeting in Brussels. He said: “It worries me that too many in Europe still believe that everything will be fine. Europe is ripe for overhaul.”
He added that Brussels had spent more time patting itself on the back about how Europe is civilised and a shining example to the rest of the world “instead of fighting the financial and economic crisis”.
Mr Oettinger said many EU members had “ceased to function” politically and said he was worried about “essentially ungovernable” nations.
He also criticised France as being “completely unprepared to do what’s necessary to get its economy back on track”. He said it has twice as many civil servants as other EU nations “but no middle class and little in the way of innovation”.
Mr Oettinger did not spare his own country in his speech, delivered at a time when 17 of the 27 EU nations are still in recession.
Although largely unscathed by the euro crisis because of its strong export economy, he said his nation is jeopardising its economic success with a false political agenda.
“Germany is at the highpoint of its economic ability. Germany will not get any stronger pursuing an agenda of childcare subsidies, quotas for women, minimum wage and rejecting fracking for natural gas,” he said.
He criticised the “hypocrisy” of Germans for worrying about the effects of fracking – in which natural gas or oil deposits are retrieved through the high-pressure splitting of subterranean rock – but being unconcerned about the environment in Russia, from where Germany imports much of its gas.