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Comment: Botch-up Over EU’s Future

  • April 27th, 2007
  • Posted by 7thmin

merkel-barrosored.jpgA small political storm over a botched high level meeting has exposed some old-style tensions, hidden rivalries and national sensitivity in the politics of the new Europe.

Spokespersons for the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, have been kept busy this week defending arrangements for a mini-summit of leaders, to workshop ideas for the proposed new European constitution.

Mr Barroso has invited the group to consultations in the tourist centre of Sintra in his native Portugal, on 12 and 13 May.

It will be made up of the President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pottering; the German Chancellor Angela Merkel as President of the European Council, and the Heads of Government of Portugal and Slovenia, as the two countries that will next take over the rotating Presidency of the Council.

(The European Council is made up of Ministers from member countries, including heads of government when they form a summit).

The difficulty for Mr Barroso’s spokespersons is that he had earlier invited some other heads of government, viz from Poland, and then rescinded the invitations.

Nobody could quite discover why; the main answer given was that the surviving group would provide a good “balance”.

The incident has exposed many sensibilities; journalists put in a dozen taxing questions when spokespersons sought to explain it all as just an ordinary informal consultation (26.4.07).

The formation of kitchen cabinets is not part of the normally open and well defined EU system.

Nationality issues can become important.

In this case, the German Council Presidency has been very assertive, hardly a passive co-ordinating operation, especially on setting up the European constitution.

This is something which Germany’s Prof. Pottering also backs at the European Parliament.

There has been talk of a “trio-presidency”, Germany plus the two smaller states that follow on; and so — if it continues — a possible continuation of direct and privileged German national influence into 2008.

The European constitution would consolidate European law, currently based on several treaties; permit more joint action on external or foreign policy; and simplify decision-making processes.

It would enable the European Union to take in more member states if it wanted, its present structures being considered too unwieldy to admit any more at this time.

Having stirred up a wee hornets’ nest over this kitchen cabinet Mr Barroso may be reflecting all the more urgently on those simplified, and transparent procedures he would like to bring about.

Picture: Angela Merkel and Jose Manuel Barroso at the European summit, Martch 2007