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Will EU change after elections?

Thursday, May 22, 2014 - 02:28

May 22 - Europe's election marathon is underway with voters in The Netherlands and the UK the first to go to the polls. The results won't be known until Sunday night but, as Sonia Legg reports, one longer-term outcome could be a new look Europe Union.

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Britain's Prime Minister was one of the first to vote in the European elections. But his support for the European Union isn't as strong as his enthusiasm for democracy. He's made no secret of his desire for a new look EU and will even hold a referendum on membership if he's re-elected. He's not the only politician calling for a profound overhaul of EU institutions. And one influential former President is too. Nicolas Sarkozy wants tighter controls on immigration and - controversially - a two-speed Europe centred around a powerful Franco-German economic zone. The timing of his comments suggest he's electioneering. But there's no doubt deep divisions are emerging within Europe and reform may be unavoidable. Joe Rundle is from ETX Capital. (SOUNDBITE) Joe Rundle, Head of Trading, ETX Capital, saying (English): "I think in the long term there does have to be change in the EU but a two-tier EU is going to be difficult because it really breaks up the reasons for it. I do think the dynamics will change - the balance will shift away from Germany but this it's probably not going to happen overnight and it is probably a five year horizon." Europe's immigration policy is likely to top the list when it comes to reform. It's a key election issue. Sarkozy wants Europe's borderless Schengen travel zone suspended and revamped to prevent foreigners shopping around for generous welfare benefits. The European Commission should no longer have legislative powers, he says - leave that to the European parliament. EU policies should be reduced to key areas like agriculture, energy and trade. And the idea that all euro zone countries can have equal power is a "myth." As a founding member it's radical stuff - but Germany probably won't like it, says Ben Kumar from 7IM. (SOUNDBITE) (English): Ben Kumar, Market Commentator, 7IM: "The euro zone is not a project that should separate out into a good and a bad euro zone - it's about one almost federal state - it's years off, decades off even but France suggesting this is unlikely, to say the least, and do you know what I think Germany will probably be able to see through this." Sarkozy officially retired from politics in 2012 after he was beaten by Francois Hollande's Socialist Party. But it's not the first time he's fired salvoes from the sidelines and is widely expected to seek re-election in 2017. The EU by then may well be a very different institution.

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Will EU change after elections?

Thursday, May 22, 2014 - 02:28