Sunday 5 November 2017

Future of Europe initiatives

The European Parliament, the European Commission and its president Jean-Claude Juncker, as well as the French president Emmanuel Macron, have provided substantive initiatives for the ongoing debate about the future of Europe.  

This blog post provides the main references for contemplation, discussion and engagement.

European Parliament

The directly elected European Parliament, which represents the citizens of the union, launched a real discussion, by setting out its vision for the future of Europe in three resolutions:

European Parliament resolution P8_TA(2017)0049 of 16 February 2017 on improving the functioning of the European Union building on the potential of the Lisbon Treaty (2014/2249(INI)) [rapporteurs Elmar Brok and Mercedes Bresso]

European Parliament resolution P8_TA(2017)0048  of 16 February 2017 on possible evolutions of and adjustments to the current institutional set-up of the European Union (2014/2248(INI)) [rapporteur Guy Verhofstadt]

European Parliament resolution P8_TA(2017)0050 of 16 February 2017 on budgetary capacity for the euro area (2015/2344(INI)) [rapporteurs Reimer Böge and Pervenche Berès]

White Paper and reflection papers

The European Commission, which promotes the general interest of the union, invited the EU institutions and all EU citizens to a broad debate, by publishing its White Paper on the Future of  Europe and the five reflection papers about the social dimension, globalisation, the economic and monetary union (EMU),European defence and EU finances:

President Jean-Claude Juncker promised to take the ideas in the White Paper and the reflection papers forward in his State of the Union 2017 speech. The Future of Europe debate is open for everyone and it continues until the elections to the European Parliament in June 2019.

State of the Union 2017

The European Commission’s State of the Union 2017 web page offers us access to the references we need, president Jean-Claude Juncker’s State of the Union (SOTEU) address SPEECH/17/3165 with the letter of intent and the roadmap for a more united, stronger and more democratic union.

Commission Work Programme 2018   

On 24 October 2017 the SOTEU speech and the Commission’s letter of intent with the roadmap graduated into the Commission Work Programme 2018: An agenda for a more united, stronger and more democratic Europe COM(2017) 650, with five annexes and the related communication on better regulation COM(2017) 651, accompanied by the staff working document SWD(2017) 675.

The communications are still available only in English, French and German, but @EurLex kindly informed me that translation work is ongoing, so new language versions may appear.

President Macron

You can find links to the Initiative pour l’Europe by the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, in the original French at the Elysée Palace website, as well as two translations of his full motivational Sorbonne speech in the blog post Macron’s Initiative for Europe in English and German.

European Council

In the European Union designed by the heads of state or government, they (the European Council EUCO) should provide the union with the necessary impetus for its development and define the general political directions and priorities, according to Article 15(1) TEU.

Why have I neglected their role in the debate about the future of Europe until now?

After the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, the presidents and prime ministers of EU27 started their own reflection period. Their Bratislava Declaration and Roadmap promised to make their union a success, and it evoked a number of important challenges to tackle.
But they reflected only among themselves and saw the 25 March 2017 as the end of the discussion, which petered out into the Rome Declaration.

Does the European Council participate in the future of Europe debate in an open manner, even when a discussion becomes unavoidable?  Has the European Council acted effectively in line with suggestions from the European Parliament, proposals from the European Commission, recommendations from international organisations and assessments form think tanks and researchers? Has EUCO listened to and engaged with the citizens of the union? Has it based its reasoning on the best interests of the citizens or the general interest of the union? Has EUCO ever honestly confronted the structural flaws of the European Union?

There are no signs that the European Council has even discussed the European Parliament’s resolutions or the Commission’s White Paper ahead of the Rome Declaration, or the reflection papers  later, as part of the ongoing, open Future of Europe debate.

Only after president Juncker’s State of the Union and roadmap proposals and president Macron’s initiative for Europe gained a foothold inside the European Council, did the heads of state or government after an informal discussion endorse a Leaders’ Agenda for 2017-2019 proposed by EUCO president Tusk, a timetable without any political reform commitments.

For these reasons it is hard to see the European Council as  a genuine provider of needed impetus for the future of the European Union, but more of a receiver. How constructive EUCO is going to be in that reduced role, remains to be seen.

Ralf Grahn

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