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EU Make-over At Coming Summit?

  • June 1st, 2008
  • Posted by 7thmin

council-building.jpgCOMMENTARY: Leaders of the European Union at the annual June summit will cut a different figure and may have different tasks set out for them, than they did one year ago.

CHANGE OF STYLE

The June event at Brussels (19-20.6.08) will be the last under the presidency of Slovenia, generally judged as competent and uncontroversial, with the baton to be handed on to France, in the person of President Nicolas Sarkozy. (Picture)

That should be a more striking affaire. sarkozy-two-2004-ec.jpg

The outspoken and fun-loving President made an early mark at Brussels, after his election to office last year, declaring strongly for the European Reform Treaty, which is to fill the role of a new EU constitution.

His intervention at that time came as a relief to senior officials wanting to see the treaty go through, though he did also embarrass them by roundly condemning a bid by Turkey to join the European Union — contradicting agreed, more diplomatic stances.

Then, at the June 2007 summit, the French President sought to roll back fifty years of practice, in a move, unsuccessful, to prise control over regulation of business competition, out of the hands of the EU – back to national governments.

MAKE-OVER MEN TAKING OVER

He will receive reinforcement in such right-of-centre manoeuvres from the recently-restored Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi. (Picture)

berlusconi-two-2001-ec.jpg

Italian voters returned the theatrical conservative leader to power at recent elections in April (15.4.08); he has been preoccupied with the serious and crippling crisis over garbage at Naples, but is expected to revel in his return to the European stage at Brussels.

Gags abound that the seventy-one year-old given to facelifts and hairpieces, should find much in common with the French leader also gifted with a talent for cultivation of image.

(The conservative French press, running holiday snaps of Mr Sarkozy last Summer, was caught airbrushing the flab away from his torso).

Would these two flashy Continentals be providing make-over advice at Brussels to the hapless, not-so-charismatic British Labour Prime Minister, Gordon Brown? (Picture)

brown-cu-2007-ec.jpg

DECISIONS

Another player in the coming drama this month will be collective personality of the people of the Irish Republic.

They are set to vote (12.6.08) in a referendum on the European Reform.

All of the other 26 member states of the EU have been able to process the treaty to the point of ratification; the Irish constitution forbids that without a direct vote; and while the Irish public have in the past endorsed major changes at Brussels, and their major political parties are campaigning for “yes”, opinion polls say they are overwhelmingly undecided.

Acceptance of the terms of the reform treaty was the great achievement of the Brussels Summit of the EU in 2007.

It was set up to allow the 27 states better to “act together with one voice”, the Heads of Government arguing that it would also rationalise and simplify relations among them, and that no further expansion of the EU could take place, to admit new countries, until that was done.

This month could see a celebratory event when they gather in Brussels, with the change at the point of finally going through – now hanging on the thread of that popular vote to be taken, in the Emerald Isle.

REFORM TREATY

Provisions under the European Reform Treaty would increase the number of issues that can be decided by the European Council, made up of national Ministers, once a new voting system is put in place; and those issues will mainly be police and judiciary matters where the EU wants a better capacity to deal with international crime.

With their votes, national governments will be able to keep a veto on matters affecting foreign policy, defence, their fiscal management, culture and social security. The British government has as well obtained the right to opt out of decisions made in connection with another initiative to be contained in the reform treaty, a binding declaration of fundamental human rights – saying it could undermine the system of rights being guaranteed by convention instead of statutes.

A “European President”, as President of the European Council (the summit group) is to be appointed for terms of two and a half years, instead of the present system with the Prime Ministers doing it on a six month rotation.

There will be a Vice President who will also be the EU’s “High Representative” for foreign affairs, with a new EU diplomatic service in support.

The executive “cabinet”, the European Commission, will be reduced from 27 members (one from each country), to two-thirds of the membership number, with Commissioners from the different countries taking turns, rotating into the jobs for five-year terms.

Complex legal changes will give the European Union a distinct “legal personality”, meaning its law-making will be more like that of a federal country, (expressly within the bounds of authority given to it by the member states).

In case all of that becomes too much for some to abide, a clause will allow member countries to leave the European Union, breaking new ground in creating a straight-forward procedure for secessions.

Reference:

EUAustralia Online, “Breakthrough At Brussels”, 24.6.07; “Relief and recrimination Over Euro-changes …”, 24.6.07.

“Ireland’s referendum on EU reform treaty”, Factbox, Reuters, http://uk.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUKL197448620080119, (1.6.08)

“Q & A: Ireland’s referendum”, BBC News World Edition, 21.10.02. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2hi/europe/2332745.stm, (1.6.08)

Picture: Top picture, European Council building at Brussels, venue for the Heads of Government.

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