Wednesday 8 September 2010

Prodi preceded Barroso’s first EU “State of the Union”

Many of us have believed (and reported) that EU Commission president José Manuel Barroso held the first “State of the Union” address for the European Parliament, but instead it was his first.

Information published on the Internet can be corrected or augmented in almost real time. I feel duty bound to publish a correction.

On Twitter @Elena2020 has tweeted two links with speeches by then Commission president Romano Prodi, both headlined State of the Union. She was also kind enough to supply the information in the comments section on this blog. The first press release, from December 2001, speaks about an annual State of the Union debate. The second link reproduces the text of a speech Prodi held in November 2003, presented as his last address to the European Parliament on the state of the Union.

In an off topic post, Kommissions-Präsident Barroso spricht zum Volk (7 September 2010), Kartellblog linked to the Prodi address 2001 mentioned in the first link.

In other words, Barroso’s “State of the Union” speech was not quite the novelty I (and many others) presented it as.

Corrected as we stand, should we retract our criticism of the pretentious title now when we know that there are precedents? We should learn from our mistakes, shouldn’t we?

Before drawing conclusions, let us look at what a few European thinkers have said on Euroblogs.

On the Federal Union blog, Richard Laming saw “a delightful power struggle going on within the EU institutions”, in the blog entry : Who’s in charge (7 September 2010).

Vihar Georgiev on European Union Law spoke about The Hidden Agenda of the State of the European Union Debate (7 September 2010), here in Bulgarian. He conjectured that a tweet by the president of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, revealed not only an objective for the future – a parliamentary Europe - but also some satisfaction with the results already achieved.

In Barroso’s Power Play: The State of the Union Address (7 September 2010), instead of the dawning of “parliamentary Europe” Eurogoblin saw President Barroso’s latest move in the chess-game of power politics being played between the EU institutions as the hidden agenda.

No integration “by stealth” or “hidden agenda” for me. I want to see the birth of a federal, effective and democratic European Union - overt agenda - but I still think that a “State of the Union” address by the president of the EU Commission is unwarranted by the current institutional setup and it falls flat when compared to the USA.

There has been so much negative criticism of the title and content of Barroso’s speech that I want to mention one spirited defence. In the blog post Más presidente (8 September 2010) the Spanish blogger Eva Peña, on Eva en Europa, saw the debate in Strasbourg as a historic day on the road towards a political Europe.

Dear reader, judge for yourself. Regardless of the glorified title, at the heart of Barroso’s intervention was the Commission’s Work Progamme for 2011, which he presented in two parts: a letter to the Members of the European Parliament and in his speech to the EP plenary session.

Ralf Grahn


  1. OK, I accept that this wasn't the first 'State of the Union' address by an EU President, but it was sold as such by the President's press team.

    Equally just because it has been done before doesn't stop it still be a serious delusion of granduer.

    As Farage pointed out in his response 40 million watch the US State of the Union, how many ebven noticed Barroso's - I have put a question into the Parliament services to see how many were livestreaming, plus the 2-600 MEPs who wandered in and out during the speech itself.

    We shall see

  2. Gawain,

    If a number of journalists and bloggers (including me) were misled, the press services did nothing to prevent it.

    I also agree that Prodi's practice does not justify the pompous title; the use is unwise, in my view.

    It would be interesting to know how many have seen Barroso's speech.


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