Time to bring EU’s broader purpose to the fore

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From Ms Elizabeth Corley and Mr Andreas Utermann.

Sir, Robert Zoellick offers an intelligent appraisal of the opportunity embedded in the UK prime minister’s recent speech on Europe (“Cameron’s critics should extol his European vision”, February 4). Contrary to those who see David Cameron’s intervention as an unwelcome sideshow to the main event of “fixing” the eurozone, it is well timed and badly needed.

With the full heat of the eurozone crisis having abated, now is the time to engage in an open discussion on the broader mission of the EU beyond closer fiscal and monetary union for most of its members. It is clear to us as investors that the closer integration needed within the eurozone also requires a fundamental review of the EU’s institutional framework, including the single market, to allow all EU members to continue to co-operate effectively. The constructive remarks of German Chancellor Angela Merkel following Mr Cameron’s speech support this.

In addition, quite aside from the move towards a plebiscite in Britain, the significant change required to strengthen the eurozone – whether in the form of treaty or constitution – will need the consent of the people in most if not all member states, whether in or apart from the single currency.

One of the great challenges facing the EU is the lack of democratic legitimacy. The European parliamentary elections are seen as inconsequential – a fact borne out by the declining participation rate in each consecutive election since 1979, from 63 per cent to 43 per cent in 2009. Often on important topics, the European electorate has been badgered into accepting new treaties or arrangements without the real benefits being spelled out. The discussions over the coming years represent a golden opportunity for politicians Europe-wide to make a powerful case for European co-operation.

The UK has some natural and important allies – among countries and across business – in wanting to improve continuously the single market and increase competitiveness. The critical issue for the UK is that it now engages constructively and energetically with its partners, that it articulates and builds support for a vision for Europe, rather than obsess over the UK’s “special dietary requirements”. The country’s distanced approach in recent years has not helped its case, but a better institutional construct for all of Europe might yet be accomplished with the UK’s contribution.

It would certainly be a welcome paradox if the speech that so many have interpreted as the beginning of the end of the UK’s 40-year membership of the EU proves to be the beginning of a new, heightened level of UK engagement in Europe.

Elizabeth Corley, Chief Executive Officer, and Andreas Utermann, Chief Investment Officer, Allianz Global Investors, London EC2, UK

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