Saturday, 3 March 2012

Breaking news!!! ”Van Rompuy bites dog!!!”

At this moment the home page of the European Council is all about the spring EUCO meeting 1 to 2 March 2012, with further pages dedicated to the re-election of president Herman Van Rompuy, the first day of the spring European Council, the euro area leaders on Greece, the Treaty on stability, coordination and governance (TSCG aka the fiscal compact) signed, and day two of the EUCO meeting summed up.

These summaries have links to documents, speeches and webcasts, so technically the communication effort was handled neatly. Under Meetings, I would prefer for the conclusions and the euro statement to link to the page with all the available language versions regardless of the language the visitor happens to use. The link to the TSCG offers an example.

EUCO summary

For the reader pressed for time, the EUCO conclusions begin with a summary of the results:

The European Council discussed the implementation of the EU's economic strategy. This strategy pursues both continued fiscal consolidation and determined action to boost growth and jobs; sustainable growth and jobs cannot be built on deficits and excessive debt levels. The measures taken to stabilize the situation in the euro area are bearing fruit.

The European Council endorsed the five priorities for 2012 set out in the Commission's Annual Growth Survey. It looked at action that has to be taken at national level. Member States must make faster progress towards the targets of the Europe 2020 Strategy and step up efforts on the reforms taken up in the 2011 Country-Specific Recommendations. They are expected to indicate the measures they intend to take to that effect in their National Reform Programmes and their Stability or Convergence Programmes. The European Council also discussed action required at the EU level, pushing ahead with completing the Single Market in all its aspects, both internal and external, and boosting innovation and research.

In the margins of the European Council the participating Member States signed the Treaty on stability, coordination and governance in the EMU.

The European Council set the EU's priorities for the forthcoming G20 meeting and UN Rio+20 Conference, with a particular emphasis on growth-enhancing measures and reforms. It took stock of developments concerning the Arab Spring and set guidance for future EU action to support that process.

The European Council granted candidate status to Serbia.

It agreed that the Council should revert to the issue of Bulgaria and Romania's accession to the Schengen area in order to adopt its decision in September.

Finally, the European Council re-elected Herman Van Rompuy as its President.

Herman Van Rompuy

One of the concrete decisions was the reappointment (formally election) of the EUCO president for two and a half years.

I already noted that president Herman Van Rompuy promised no real change for EU citizens during his second term, during which he will chair the Euro Summit as well. (A post in Swedish on Grahnblawg too about this election of a sole candidate.)

In addition to the draft conclusions (not formally published) and press conference videos, Van Rompuy left a number of speeches and statements as reading for journalists and aficionados of EU politics: his acceptance speech, his statement after the first session of the European Council with the letter S in prominence, his speech at the signing of the of the Treaty on Stability, Coordination
and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union (TSCG) by 25 of the 27 EU member states, and his positive end note at the conclusion of the summit, even risking a joke about his own (s)election (in French).

Van Rompuy bites dog?

Those who cry out for boldness and charisma are probably driven to despair before Van Rompuy opens his mouth, and they possibly fall asleep before hearing a word.

If ”Man bites dog” encapsulates news, there is little front page headline material to wring out of these addresses.

The structure is clear and the style restrained. In a low key they put chosen policies in perspective and explain the choices made. Their lack of hyperbole makes them more credible than many EU proclamations of yore. The messages seem to be the kind of gentle prodding national leaders want, or at least tolerate.

Are Van Rompuy's interventions and work effective? Can the outcomes be judged now or later?

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

P.S. Between the global issues and the national level, with a tenuous hold on democracy, the European Union institutions and the eurozone coteries shape our future. At the same time we see a European online public sphere emerging. Grahnlaw (ranked fourth among political blogs in Finland), Grahnblawg (in Swedish) and Eurooppaoikeus (in Finnish) are among the more than 900 euroblogs aggregated by multilingual Are you following the debates which matter for your future? Is your blog already listed on Bloggingportal?