Wednesday, 29 February 2012

European Council versus sewing circle governance

Oblivious of its two years as the most important official institution of the EU, the European Council (EUCO) convenes 1-2 March 2012 at the same level of governance as a sewing circle (thematic page).

In order to prolong this sad state of affairs, the preparatory General Affairs Council (GAC) left us with these recycled generalities (page 8):


The Council examined draft conclusions for the European Council meeting to be held on 1 and 2 March.

The European Council is due to focus on:

• Economic policy:

– assessing progress made in implementing country-specific recommendations under the EU's European Semester and commitments under the Euro Plus Pact;

– giving guidance to member states, on the basis of the Commission's annual growth survey, for the preparation of their national reform programmes (structural reforms) and stability or convergence programmes (fiscal policies);

– highlighting labour market reforms and employment and competitiveness issues; and

– providing guidance to the Commission and the Council on the implementation of flagship initiatives for jobs and growth.

• International summits: preparations for a G-8 summit on 19-20 May, a G-20 summit on 18-19 June and a UN "Rio+20" conference on sustainable development on 20-22 June;

• Foreign policy, including the southern neighbourhood (one year after the start of the Arab
Spring) and Syria;

• Other issues, including EU enlargement (Serbia) and accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area.

The Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union ("fiscal compact") will be signed in the margins of the meeting.

The draft conclusions will be reviewed in the light of the Council's discussion. An annotated draft agenda was discussed by the Council on 27 January (5354/12).

In short, there is no documentation of the input to the coordinating General Affairs Council and there is no meaningful public output from the GAC, which sits on the draft conclusions.

The European Council continues to act like a club of ladies meeting for tea, gossip and sewing, with the tiny difference that the EUCO happens to be the supremo among official instutions for 502 million EU citizens.

Here, at least, the Lisbon Treaty would allow the GAC and EUCO more than perennial underachievement with regard to the openness (transparency) mandated by Article 1 TEU.

Ralf Grahn
speaker on EU affairs, especially digital policy and law

P.S. For better or for worse, between the global issues and the national level, the European Union institutions and the eurozone coteries shape our future. At the same time we see an emerging European online public sphere. Grahnlaw, Grahnblawg (in Swedish) and Eurooppaoikeus (in Finnish) and more than 900 other euroblogs are aggregated by multilingual Is your blog already listed among them? Are you following the debates which matter for your future?