Thursday 26 June 2008

Vote and advance!

The chairman of the think-tank Notre Europe, Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, makes an interesting – and true – observation of the history of European integration. France has been the determining factor. When France has put the brakes on, to preserve its veto, the European communities have stalled, often leading to severe crises. When France has agreed to effective decision-making, the European project has advanced and the common good has been given a firmer footing.

In other words, France has effectively regulated progress.

Padoa-Schioppas article ‘Président Sarkozy, faites voter !’ can be found in Le Monde (26 June 2008) :

In addition to his interesting analysis, the chairman of the think-tank founded by Jacques Delors issues an impassioned plea to France to use the six months of its Council presidency to become, once again, the engine of the European Union. Key to this is not to accept blocking vetoes, but to vote, to decide and to progress. The gist of Padoa-Schioppa’s plea can be read in the concluding paragraph of the article:

« La France a entre ses mains les clés pour libérer l'horizon. La présidence de l'Union représente une occasion unique qu'elle ne doit pas rater. Les débats sur le bilan de santé de la PAC, la politique d'immigration et l'énergie s'y prêteraient à merveille. Dès lors, ma recommandation centrale à la future présidence française tient en deux mots : n'acceptez pas le blocage par le veto, n'acceptez pas de retarder une décision pour attendre tout le monde, "faites voter !" La France démontrera ainsi sa capacité à redevenir le moteur d'une Europe en mouvement. »


Padoa-Schioppa is right in his long term analysis of France’s often contradictory role as perceived engine of the European project, but persistently intergovernmentalist in practice, the phenomenon I have branded the “French paradox”.

He is also correct in pointing out the crucial factor between unanimity leading to minimalist solutions and qualified majority voting opening up vistas for the common good of the citizens of the European Union.

President Nicolas Sarkozy seems to have the requisite amount of ambition. But has he the courage needed to act?

Ralf Grahn

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