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?


  1. At the appropriate time, the Sovereign Lord God, Psalm 2:4-5, will open the curtains, and on to Europe’s stage will step the most credible leader. He will be the Sovereign, Revelation 13:5-10, and will be accompanied by a monetary pope, the Seignior, Revelation 13:11-18, who will have monetary cardinals, who will provide diktat for the money and credit need of Euroland, as well as provide structural reforms for economic sustainability. Budget commissioners will be appointed to provide technocratic government enforcing fiscal austerity. These Eurocrats will work for the security, stability, and sustainability needs of the European continent . The Economist relates that Mario Monti, the Italian prime minister, says that as well as a “fiscal compact” the EU needs an “economic compact”. Fate will bring these to pass, as it works in ever increasing regionalization.

    All the pieces for a Federal Europe are falling in place, a monetary union has formed, and once leaders meet in summits and announce framework agreements, that is a fiscal compact and an economic compact, then a One Euro Government will rule supreme in the Eurozone

  2. @theyenguy

    If all the pieces fall into place, they include democratic and accountable government in a real federation.

  3. Grahnlaw: "If all the pieces fall into place, they include democratic and accountable government in a real federation."

    You'll have to explain how 'real representational democracy and accountability' can be achieved within an institution designed to be run by technocrat 'geniuses'.

    The foundational philosophical thinking behind the crafting of EU constitution would be (and is) in direct opposition to thinking of the framers and founders of the US constitution.

    The EU in its entirety is exactly what the founders and framers (and John Locke) feared when they set about creating a limited form of representational government.

    The EU, which you speak approvingly of, is Thomas Hobbes' leviathan. It can never become 'democratic and accountable', it's a statist enterprise through and through.

    The rejection of Natural Law and natural rights should be enough to disprove your thinking.

  4. @KGS

    I have expressed my views about the need for democratic and accountable government, sufficient powers etc. often enough, so I won't go into lengthy arguments here.

    In short, sovereignty of the people is the first principle a new European federation should be based on.

  5. You simply can't point to anything in the EU constitution as a starting point for building a real proportional, representational and accountable and limited government.

    It's statist entitey through and through, and wishing it to be otherwise, will never make it so.

    Founded on principles that are in complete rejection of liberty, freedom and individual sovereignty, the EU itself, the statist masterminds who run it stand in the way of what you seek.

    It's interesting to me that you stand behind your criticisms as that alone being enough.

  6. One more note, seeing that the US is presently a post-constitutional democracy, after all teh safeguards, what makes you think that this batch of socialisst masterminds will be more successful than those who adhered to the philosophical views of John Locke, Charles De Montisque?

    You really think thei batch of lack luster statists will ensure your and my liberty? Really?

  7. @KGS

    We are far from a democratic union in Europe, but there are several building blocks on the site.

    Democracy as an idea is the organising principle of government in the member states of the Council of Europe and the European Union.

    The states of the EU have to be functioning democracies when they become members, and in principle they can be sanctioned if they deviate.

    According to the Lisbon Treaty, the functioning of the EU is based on representative democracy and the citizens are directly represented in the European Parliament.

    We are citizens of the EU, although we still lack full political rights with regard to the union.

    We have embryonic political parties at European level.

    There is an emerging European public sphere, including Euroblogs (

    Introducing full democracy at the European level in the 21st century should be a much smaller step mentally and practically than creating a democratic and federal USA in the 18th century.

    Contrary to you, I do not only criticise the EU as it is, but often enough present my views about how the new union in Europe should look.

    (That said, I also write about the EU, its politics, policies and legislation, in the same way people living under an autocratic ruler live and act in the real world.)

  8. @KGS

    If you mean that the "statists" are national leaders wedded to their nation states, with very few signals that they are prepared to speak and act for a fully democratic union, you're right.

    Only a few isolated and usually timid voices have been heard.

    It is harder to understand how you can transform the centre-right leaders in Europe to socialists.

  9. No, that's not the meaning of statism. A statist believes in the all powerful government, not the private individual, and collections of private individuals, to manage affairs within society. The statist wants, desires, demands the population to surrender their individual liberties to the government in echange for promises of welfare, a caretaker society. In such an environment, the individual ceases to exist, being reduced to a mere commodity. No matter the platitudes, they are in fact, anti-liberty, anti-freedom.

    As I said before, the governing philosophy of the EU constitution is in direct contrast to that of the US constitution (statist driven vs. the other based on Natural Law, individual soveriegnty respect for property rights etc, (read up on John Locke and Charles De Montisque). So how can you rationally expect that the results of the former will be better than the latter, especially in light of the fact that the latter is presently experiencing a post-constitutional democracy because of the statist?

    You operate from the premise that member EU states are ''functioning democracies'', so ok they're democracies, but do not confuse them with functioning, representational, constitutional republics. These governments (Finland included) are 'big government' orientated entities, and anything that comes from them will naturally flow in that direction....more big government, but this time in a huge federalist enterprise, and it all comes at the expense of the individual, and his her property rights, or in other words, their liberty.

    European social democracies do not operate upon the principle of the sanctity of the individual, far from it. We are not citizens, but subjects to the state, and to think otherwise is just fooling ourselves. It's tyranny, the same tyranny the Founders and Framers of the US constitution were desperately trying to guard against. And their republic has been effectively thwarted by the statists, mostly Democrats and statist establishment Republicans, to which, Mitt Romney, the Bushes, John McCain belong. These US statists work outside of the US constitution.

    So how can you honestly, rationally think that Europe, given its penchant for a massive entitlements and the welfare state, will deliver "representational democracy'' to the citizenry in the form of an even larger statist supra-entitey on steroids? You can't have liberty, freedom, protection of property rights and true representational republican form of democracy and the massive leviathan than that Thomas Hobbes wrote about. The two are in direct odds with each other.

    Mr.Grahnlaw, contrary to you, I look to history and the driving philosophy of the people in question to tell me whether or not something is viable or not, and seeing that the EU project is something that the founders and framers would have loathed, and would have never signed on to, tells me that the project will be a failure, from the perspective of individual liberty, and result in more tyranny. The Founders and Framers feared an all powerful federal government that would run roughshod over the states, and that is exactly what has occurred.

    The EU enterprise starts from that very premise from the git go, and you have nothing but praise for it.
    You close with: "It is harder to understand how you can transform the centre-right leaders in Europe to socialists."

    Any ''conservative'' politician, in Europe, the US or elswhere that conceeds to the socialists' ideas of expansive big government, and massive public entitlement programs and the welfare state (hyvinvointi valtio), and defends them, are in fact socialists themselves, regardless of the labels and hats that they go by. Those are the honest facts of the matter.

    It's faux conservatism and overt statism.

  10. @KGS

    In all modesty I want a new European union based on the citizens, through representative democracy with politically accountable government.

    It is for the Basic Law of this entity to offer the ground rules for democratic government and to guarantee the fundamental rights of citizens.

    It is then up to the political parties to compete, and for the citizens to vote on general direction of government.

  11. Ok, I get it, it's what you want, but what you want, and what this enterprise will actually begat, are two different things altogether.

    I can believe in "world peace" and the "tooth fairy" as well, but the reality of course speaks otherwise.

  12. @KGS

    Great changes seldom happen in an instant. We had Enlightenment philosophers and various forms of skewed representation for a long time before universal suffrage.

    But I prefer where we should go to mere damnation of where we are.


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