Friday, 24 September 2010

European Union challenges: Parliament or governments? Opening shots

This September 2010 has been a fertile month for a renewed debate about the fundamental traits of the European Union, although the discussion takes place between the institutions, unnoticed by most EU citizens and with scant reference to them (us). Is this the “Brussels bubble” at its best or its worst?

Here is an introduction to positions taken by a few protagonists: José Manuel Barroso, Martin Schulz, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Michał Tomasz Kamiński and Herman Van Rompuy.



José Manuel Barroso



The president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, outlined the “State of the Union” in the European Parliament 7 September 2010. He wanted to strengthen the bonds between the Commission, which promotes the general interest, and the directly elected Parliament, which represents the citizens of the EU:


The secret of Europe's success is its unique Community model. More than ever, the Commission must drive the political agenda with its vision and proposals.

I have called for a special relationship between the Commission and Parliament, the two Community institutions par excellence. I am intensifying my political cooperation with you.



EP group leaders



According to the EP press release with a summary of the debate, the Socialist and Democrat group leader Martin Schulz promised to support the European Commission in efforts to defend the "community method" against "intergovernmentalism".

For the Greens, Daniel Cohn-Bendit asked whether the EU is headed towards "an intergovernmental Europe or a Community".

Using the same terms, but heading in the opposite direction, Michał Tomasz Kamiński for the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group told the House that: "The 27 member states are going to stay there, they are elected by citizens. We want balance between community and what is intergovernmental in Europe."



Herman Van Rompuy


On 20 September 2010 the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy spoke about Europe’s great challenges at the Sciences-Po in Paris (blog post one here, post two here, speech in French here). Before explaining why the member states are necessary in his view, Van Rompuy laid out the two models of governance (page 5-6):


Avant l’été, des voix se sont élevées pour critiquer ce rôle de l’institution que je préside. Un vieux schéma (que les étudiants connaissent sans doute de leurs manuels de droit européen) a fait sa réapparition : la « Méthode Communautaire » serait menacée par l’irruption de l’« intergouvernemental », sous la forme notamment du Conseil européen.

(Pour les non-initiés (s’il y en a ici !) : on appelle Méthode Communautaire la méthode spécifique qu’a développée la Communauté européenne pour prendre des décisions. Dans la forme pure, la Commission fait une proposition, le Conseil vote à la majorité, le Parlement co-légifère, la Cour est compétente pour juger l’application de la règle par les Etats ; un système d’équilibres qui garantirait tant l’efficacité que la légitimité.

L’intergouvernemental, à l’inverse, est une méthode de coopération où les gouvernements nationaux et non pas des institutions communes ont le premier rang, tels qu’aux sommets du G8 ou G20.)

J’ai entendu parler de ce schéma binaire, opposant le bien et le mal, au Parlement européen et ailleurs.

À mon avis, c’est un faux débat.



“A false debate” - is it really that simple?

Where do the citizens of the European Union fit in?

These were just the opening shots. There is more to explore.




Ralf Grahn




P.S. In two days, Sunday 26 September 2010, people all over Europe celebrate the European Day of Languages, organised by the Council of Europe and the European Union as an inspiration to language learning.



For bloggers in Europe there is a special event, which takes place on the Internet: the Day of Multilingual Blogging. The blog post behind the link offers suggestions on how you can participate, as well as information about the event, the Facebook page and the Twitter hashtag #babel. Make the most of your opportunities - start by joining!