Saturday, 21 October 2017

European Council: Leaders’ Agenda

The blog post European Council: United we’re stuck? noted the effort of the EUCO president Donald Tusk to cut the Gordian knots among the heads of state or government (and more generally the governments of the member states), by a structured approach to difficult issues. At the same time, the entry doubted if a schedule for thematic meetings would be more successful now than at the time of Herman Van Rompuy. What if sub-optimal procedures and outcomes for EU citizens and enterprises are inevitable consequences of a basically intergovernmental union the member states have designed to suit themselves?

Do we find anything to add to our knowledge about the Leaders’ Agenda after the EUCO meeting?

The customary introductory speech by the president of the European Parliament touched on a number of issues. On the future of Europe Antonio Tajani reminded the national leaders:

Europe is thinking hard about its own future. We have to find answers to two fundamental questions: what it is that we want to do together in the future, and how we want to do it.
As you will remember, Parliament was the first to contribute to this reflection process, through the Brok-Bresso, Böge-Bérès and Verhofstadt reports.
President Juncker has presented the Commission White Paper setting out the possible scenarios and, more recently, President Macron put on the table a range of ideas and proposals that warrant in-depth consideration.
Parliament, as a democratic and open forum for debate, aims – and has the institutional duty – to be at the centre of the debate.
That is why the Conference of Presidents has decided to devote a series of  debates in plenary to the future of Europe, and to invite the Heads of State and Government and leading European figures who wish to speak to outline their vision and debate with us.
I have already extended that invitation to some of you in person, and will be sending everyone a written invitation in the next few days.
We have noted that one of the items on the Leaders’ Agenda concerns the Spitzenkandidaten. I am sure that your aim is to make that arrangement the norm.
Thank you for listening. I look forward to your coming to Parliament to talk about Europe.

The European Council informs us that the Leaders’ Agenda was endorsed. During the coming two years, the national leaders are going to deal with the most contentious issues, such as the Eurozone reform, migration crisis, internal security, trade and the future financing of the EU, according to Tusk.

Tusk’s added remarks on the Leaders’ Agenda described the new work method as somewhat more direct and more informal than normally. Naturally, he expressed his satisfaction that the leaders are going to work united, hand-in-hand, with all the member states aboard.

According to the EUCO meeting page, the leaders met informally to endorse the Leaders’ Agenda, “a concrete work programme to guide EU’s action in the future”. This seems to explain why there is nothing in the European Council conclusions, but we have Tusk’s remarks (above), plus the downloadable Bratislava implementation report and Leaders’ agenda, as well as the description in the EUCO invitation letter,  mentioned in the previous blog entry.

In light of the video recordings of the joint press conference of Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker, Tusk repeated his written statement on the Leaders’ Agenda verbatim, but there is no indication that the journalists showed any interest.

The European Council has offered an initial response to the Future of Europe debate, with EU reform calls from the European Parliament, the European Commission, the French president Emmanuel Macron, think tanks, civil society organisations and individual EU citizens.

Will anything come out to the EUCO timetable? - The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Ralf Grahn

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