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Jan Zahradil and Martin Callanan: The Eurozone is within its rights to go one way. We are within our rights to go another.

Screen shot 2011-12-08 at 09.49.08Jan Zahradil MEP is chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists group and member of the Czech ODS party - the party of the Czech Prime Minister. Martin Callanan is leader of UK Conservative MEPs.

EU leaders will be taking their sleeping bags to Brussels today. They have been put on notice to prepare for a long night of negotiations. Like misbehaving children, they won't be let out until they have reached a deal that may placate the markets - at least for the time being.

But there will be a large elephant in the room: that this crisis has brought about a two-speed EU.

The first tier held its summit on Monday. Merkozy met in Paris to set out their requisites for EU treaty change. The old adage that "he who pays the piper calls the tune" couldn't be more appropriate to their dominant position in negotiations. The Eurozone has 15 other heads of state and government but will any of them dare stand in the way of the almighty Chancellor? Greece's Papandreou tried by offering to put his austerity plans to a referendum. Look where he is now. Berlusconi was deemed unfit by his EU peers so he was replaced by a former EU commissioner without recourse to any electoral process.

The prospect of mass downgrading by the ratings agencies will focus minds in Brussels today. The piper that Merkel is paying may just be the Pied Piper of Hamelin, leading the misbehaving children away. Eurozone nations will give away their sovereignty hand over fist in an attempt to put off the inevitable.

We do not wish to see the demise of the Eurozone, but the very policies being pursued in Brussels today and tomorrow will not save it in the long term. The markets have decided that Greek default is inevitable. The cliché about kicking a can down a road is becoming hackneyed but it is a perfect analogy for the ongoing denial of our leaders.

However, if they wish to go down this route then it is not the place of non-Eurozone Britain or the Czech Republic to stop them and we must wish them well.

However, we do have to seize on the opening that is available to us. We need to point out the elephant in the room and use it to our advantage, arguing that any new arrangement should not be a continuation of the process of transferring powers to Brussels that we have seen over the past 50 years.

In Brussels, MEPs have no shame in talking about how they can use the crisis to further their political ends. The parliament's Green group held a hearing entitled "Never waste a crisis." So we should use this opportunity presented to us to demand the flexible kind of EU with a new paradigm for the 21st century. 

The EU "process" should be a two directional one which instigates a more flexible European Union. All 27 members should be equally respected, but not required to sign up to every dot and comma of the European project.

In particular, the Czech Republic, like all of the 2004 EU entrants, is committed to joining the Euro. However, the Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas has made it clear that the Czech Republic agreed to enter a currency union, not a debt union or a fiscal union controlled by Brussels, Berlin and Paris. All non-Euro countries should be able to reconsider their options regarding potential future entry.

EU employment and social legislation is hampering our ability to grow our way out of this crisis. If there is an opportunity to repatriate such powers to national governments then we should seize it. In the parliament, we have often found that our efforts to water down particularly officious employment law has met with a sympathetic ear from Liberal Democrat MEPs - so maybe the two elements of the UK coalition are not as far apart on the issue as has been suggested.

The European Parliament now has co-decision powers over matters affecting Europe's financial services industry. So far, this has produced imperfect legislation, to say the least. Had it not been for the hard work of our Conservative MEP colleagues, we might have already seen the devastation of our financial services at the hands of ill-informed Brussels bureaucrats and MEPs casting around to find scapegoats for the crisis. We can use the opportunity presented here to secure an emergency handbrake on legislation that will really harm our financial districts, as the think-tank Open Europe has suggested.

We can do all of this without threatening the single market, which should continue to be a tool of mutual benefit and trade across all 27 EU members. The single market is being revamped thanks to the work of such people our Conservative colleague Malcolm Harbour, who chairs the respective parliamentary committee. Ensuring that its governance remains the preserve of the 27 rather than the 17 must be a top priority. However, the single market does not need harmonised employment legislation or corporate taxation in order to make it a success. And when it comes to financial services it should move at the pace of the most liberal free market economies. After all, the watchword of the single market should be competition - both relative to the outside world and within itself.

As EU leaders bed down for the night tonight, surely it is time for somebody to put the case for a different kind of EU? The Eurozone is within its rights to go one way. We are within our rights to go another.


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