The dream of European Commission president José Manuel Barroso of turning the European Union into a “federation of nation states” has already fallen foul of one of the most trenchant sceptics of deeper integration – Czech president Vaclav Klaus.
Mr Barroso outlined a vision of not only deeper economic and monetary union but a new “political union” with coherent foreign and defence policy and powers to deploy military missions in crisis areas.
“A deep and genuine economic and monetary union... means ultimately that the present European Union must evolve,” Mr Barroso told the European Parliament on Wednesday.
“And let’s not be afraid of the words: we will need to move toward a federation of nation states.”
Such reforms would require changes to EU treaties and potentially a referendum in Ireland and other countries.
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“While deeper integration is indispensable for the euro area and its members, this project should remain open to all member states,” Mr Barroso added.
Mr Klaus responded swiftly on behalf of the Czech Republic, which does not use the euro.
“I firmly reject the idea presented by José Barroso,” he said.
“The only thing I appreciate in his proposal is that the current advocates of deeper European integration have for the first time openly admitted their real objectives.”
The Czech president has for years been one of the most outspoken opponents of deeper EU integration, complaining that it will hand too much influence to unelected officials, strip power from national governments and leave smaller nations at the mercy of the EU’s big powers.
“In 2004, we joined the European Union, not a federation in which we’ll become an insignificant province,” Mr Klaus said.
His complaints are likely to find resonance in several other central European states with strong eurosceptic parties, including Hungary and Poland.
The 10 non-euro zone EU members are also worried about the impact on their banks of proposals for a “banking union” and new supervisory powers for the European Central Bank.
“The position of the Czech government and the Czech national bank is very cautious and very sceptical,” the Czech prime minister Petr Necas said.
Hungarian government spokesman Marton Hajdu said: “We will focus on the question of a fair balance of rights and obligations... And on how to keep under control potential impacts – direct and indirect – on the banking sector.”