Stanley's blog

The credibility gap between the political class and the people is widening in most Member States, but there is no consensus as to what to do.

The economic and financial challenges facing Europe require decisive leadership, but most national electoral systems make this difficult. The remedies to overcome the economic and financial crisis involve ‘pain now and gain later’, an unattractive recipe for a national politician with an election always looming.

The West rightly seeks to promote democracy in the world. But we make it hard for ourselves to achieve this with political systems which are not working effectively and do not have the support of the people

The challenges also require a European solution and not a series of national ones. The worst culprits are the large Member States who still do not accept that their country cannot go it alone. Even Donald Rumsfeld said, “And the reality is, there’s practically nothing important that needs to be done in the world that we can do alone.”

It would also be easier to gain the support of the citizens if the 27 Member States acted in unison. Unfortunately, the European Union itself lacks leadership. This is not to criticize, Herman Van Rompuy, who is doing an excellent job as president of the European Council.

It is the Commission which should be leading. The Delors days may be past, but today we have a Commission with weak leadership, inefficient management andturf wars. Unfortunately, the image of the European Parliament has not substantially improved. Above all, the Commission and Parliament should be setting an example and cutting back on perks and expenses generally.

Where is this leading us? The national political scene is fragmenting with extreme and destructive parties gaining – the Netherlands and Belgium being the latest examples. And there is no effective movement, European-wide or at national level. Such movements would, of course, quickly be pilloried by the media as ‘federalist’ and Brussels-centric.

The big idea and long-term vision are no longer well received. We must therefore concentrate on a number of measures which could help, although they will not replace the need for Member States to work closer together. Thus the Commission, Parliament and Council should appoint two High Level Groups:

• to recommend expense savings within the three EU institutions, the European Economic & Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions; and
• to recommend improvements in the organisation and efficiency of the institutions which do not require treaty amendments, with particularly reference to the methods of the Commission in awarding and monitoring expert contracts.

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