Tuesday, 1 July 2008

French EU presidency: Win-win?

President Nicolas Sarkozy made some interesting observations at the start of France’s six month presidency of the European Council and the Council.

For the main points, read for instance the BBC news item ‘Warning as France takes EU helm’:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7482197.stm

Sarkozy stated that Europe’s citizens were losing faith in the project and he added that something isn’t right.

Getting the Treaty of Lisbon approved by the remaining EU member states is a priority.

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Thoughtful and humble can mean at least two different things.

Sarkozy must be aware of sentiments regarding French arrogance and his own impulsive personality, as well as of popular resistance against and disillusionment with the European Union. Recognition of such feelings may be suitable, but superficial.

On the other hand, sometimes growing uncertainty carries the seeds of change. In that case, there might be hope.

Nearly eight years of treaty reform work without concrete results has not diminished the need for more effective decision-making in the European Union. But growing numbers of Europeans feel that decisions are emigrating to ‘Brussels’ and that they are losing control.

It would indeed be a “step backward” to try to re-export the great international challenges to the national level, ever less able to cope. But it is untenable to strengthen the European level of governance without extending citizens’ power to all questions European.

The Lisbon Treaty and the possible new Irish referendum have to be placed on a new footing. France has to overcome its own historical addiction to dreams of European power without the supranational and democratic means to achieve it, and the French presidency must convince its partners and the EU’s citizens that the European project can succeed only on the foundation of democratic legitimacy and accountability.

Gaetane Ricard-Nihoul and Yves Bertoncini pointed in the right direction in ‘Après le “non” irlandais, ouvrons le débat’ (Les Echos, 26 June 2008), when they said that the European Union in the 21st century is either more democratic or not at all:

http://www.lesechos.fr/info/analyses/4744981.htm

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Protective gimmicks show a realisation of the problem, but they are not enough.

Europe needs a win-win solution: Better institutions and power for the people, real democratic reform.


Ralf Grahn