Thursday 5 March 2009

Exceptional times call for …

Exceptional times call for unexceptional measures, by the looks of it.

Business as usual? Today EurActiv reported ‘Barroso rejects bold ideas for EU financial reform’:

Only realistic plans, adapted to the Council’s low expectations are to be presented.

After this I understand even less what Commissioner Almunia suggested he had hidden up his sleeve, should matters get worse (which seems to be the best case scenario, nowadays).

Yesterday Julien Frisch wondered in ‘The slowness of the EU Council during the financial crisis’, why nothing seems to have happened with regard to Cross-Border Stability Groups:


Harmony between the (European) Council and the Commission is wonderful.

But isn’t Rome burning?

Ralf Grahn

P.S. The efforts of Central European member states to catch up with the older EU members have been called many things, but shouldn’t at least the ERM 2 countries get quick and effective help to enter the Eurozone?

P.S. 2 If there is a no-bailout clause to the effect that EU countries have no legal obligation to save their profligate neighbours, does it mean a prohibition against help in the common and each member’s own interest?

P.S. 3 Do we need new leaders, new rules or both?


  1. P.S. 2 - Both.

    Barroso has been a lame duck President for a long time, and the rules mean that if any Commission President wants re-election, then they're probably lame ducks from the start.

    The rejection of a fast-track Euro membership is particularly worrying. I'm still undecided on the Eurobonds idea, but only because I'm worried that if it was introduced now, it would make the situation in the eastern states harder to manage, and might end up doing more harm than good. On the other hand, it would be a great help to the struggling Eurozone countries.

    It's good that he is at least following the De Larosière report (though the use of the word "broadly" could point to a further watering down of an already watered down plan). But it's clear that when the Commission cannot come up with anything independently and has to rely on extra-Commission reports for its plans, it's long past the time when the President should go.

  2. Good points.

    By blaming all national ills on the EU for years, national politicians have broken the toy they desp. now need. It's obvious we need stronger supranational institutions but the MS, would rather have us all get poorer, than undermining their "sovereignty" and sense of importance in the eyes of the average voter. Having said that, BArroso's behavior is a disgrace. The Commission needs to rediscover its role as the intellectual leadership of the EU.

    Re. the no-bailout clause, my understanding is that another provision enables the MS to come to the rescue of any MS. But this is obviously to be decided on political grounds:


  3. Eurocentric,

    How should we follow the inspirations of President Sarkozy? In December, during the French Council Presiency, the European Council unanimously decided to start looking for the new Commission President immediately after the European elections in June.

    Less than three months later the same Sarkozy - seemingly unilaterally - declares publicly that they have to wait until after the second Irish referendum.

    He has supported Barroso and then withdrawn his support.

    This probably means that Barroso is a duck even more lame than before and for a much longer time.

    I agree with your assessment o the Larosière report. It does not answer the real world challenges, but the expectations of what the current "leaders" of Europe might be willing to discuss.

    As usual, self-censorship leads to unwieldy proposals, and as often to get London on board. In the end these efforts are in vain anyway.

    If there are any hopeful signs for Europe, I think they come from the other shore of the Atlantic.

    This is why I wanted to highlight the article in the Huffington Post, and this is what I read into the choices made by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

    Europe is not the main challenge for the USA, but the US administration needs an effective and cohesive Europe as a partner, not only for the US and the EU, but for the rest of the world.

    But the history of European integration shows that the Europeans themselves have been under-achievers despite US support.

    A continent living in the past is soon a thing of the past.

  4. LCP,

    It saddens me that we have institutions and rules fit only for fair-weather sailing.

    The economic crisis is going to bring hardship to many Europeans, but the lack of leadership and effective decision-making are going to cause even more damage.

    "Sovereignty" is a dogm of little value when it translaes into the right to preside over a bankrupt estate in splendid isolation.

    Yes, there is another provision on balance of payment difficulties, but outside that the (member) states are free to act on the international arena in accordance with the general rules of international law. (The draw-back is the requirement to act unanimously; fairly much to expect when the going gets tough.)


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