Stanley's blog

Day One of the French Presidency increases my worries. From the Schumann Plan to monetary union, the big ideas which fashioned European integration have been mainly French. But the tenor of the rhetoric of the French leadership leaves me incredulous and worried.

“No-one understands the European Union, not even me”, says Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner. “Europe appears as a problem rather than a solution.”

“We must reconnect with the citizens”, says Président Sarkozy. “We must change our method of construction.”

As I’ve previously written, the principal fault lies with the Member State leaders, who do not explain what the EU does and talk about ‘Brussels’, often in a derogatory manner, not revealing that they have the final word in Brusssels.

It certainly does not help for Kouchner to pretend that even he does not understand. Nor does it help for Sarkozy to continue to attack the Commission, in particular Commissioner Mandelson, and the European Central Bank.

I view the forthcoming visits of the President to Ireland and the Czech Republic with trepidation.

“We have prepared this presidency with much humility”, says Prime Minister François Fillon.

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  1. Let us say that populist gimmicks of the ‘protective’ kind signal a realisation that something needs to be done, although the concrete proposals and the attacks are misdirected.

    In the end, the European Union needs effective decision-making rules (no liberum veto) as well as the real bond with EU citizens: democratic legitimac and accountability.

    The Lisbon Treaty, important as it is, represents a part of the first half of the equation.

    Naturally, the road to relative success is for each Council presidency to have an EU agenda, not merely a national one.

  2. Mmhh, politics. When are they not a worry to us lowly citizens. I think every politician needs to stand up to their public promises once they are elected. Unfortunately it rarely happens.

  3. I completely agree with you, Stanley. Jacques Delors once derisively ltold The Wall Street Journal of the Prodi Commission: “They are busy with pedestrian safety and the cleanliness of beaches…They think this will bring Brussels closer to its citizens, but Brussels will never be close to its citizens. It will always be distant. It must have strategic priorities.”

    What Europe lacks are leaders with visions for Europe and the ability to communicate it. For all their faults, Delors and Mitterand and Kohl were giants in this regard. Even Thatcher was a visionary in her own way. Prodi had enlargement and the euro. And look at the way Obama has achieved rock star status in the U.S. with a very simple message of change – and without too much detail work.

    I do believe Europe needs to continue to deliver on substance–including clean beaches and pedestrian safety, Mr. Delors!–but to win hearts and minds it has to deliver on the big issues that are most important to Europeans: fuel and food prices, immigration, jobs, pensions and managing globalisation.

    EUvangelist

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