by Ray Fleming

At a time that the continued existence of the European Union is under doubt some of its most influential members are confidently engaged in thinking about its future. This week the “Future Group” of eleven foreign ministers has reported on its ideas about changes that need to be made in their area of responsibility. Although the report frequently states that “not all ministers agreed with all proposals” the trend is clearly towards a federal EU with greater power being exercised at the centre than at present, starting with EU foreign policy which would be reached by majority vote if necessary. Defence policy, too, would be unified with the longer-term possibility of an EU army in mind.

The Future Group did not confine its considerations to foreign policy matters. It proposed an elected head of a re-formed EU government to be voted for throughout the EU on the same day and also made a case for the abolition of member state vetoes on new treaties or changes to existing ones. The lead in this blue-sky thinking exercise has been taken by Germany's foreign minister Guido Westerwelle and it shows the same direction favoured by Chancellor Merkel towards greater cohesion in fiscal issues. Spain is a member of the Future Group but It is no surprise that Britain is not although nothing is known about whether it was invited.