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Springtime in Europe?

Published on March 21, 2012 by: in: Politics

As we may infer from the latest comment of Paweł Świeboda, the head of demosEUROPA – Centre for European Strategy, we are facing a new stage in the European integration. After several years of hardship when economic crisis extorted makeshift actions and an appointment of permanent President of the European Council deprived European Commission of its previous importance in creating a compromise among European countries, EU institutions find themselves in new roles. The Commission has a chance to get back in the saddle and become a mine of ideas for the governing and by no means only on the EU level.

photo: Abaconda

photo: Abaconda

Optimistically speaking, this is exactly what Europe needs. Compared to national administrations the Commission is far more innovative and, thanks to its quasi-corporative ethos, cleans their clocks when it comes to effectiveness. Passing the responsibility of introducing new solutions to the Parliament and Council of the European Union may turn out all for the best for the Commission. Both of the formerly mentioned bodies have democratic legitimization, hence the constant grumble about eurocrats’ usurpation will come to an end.

The problem is that new ideas alone are not enough, the crucial thing is the power of introducing them. The Commission holds monopoly for legislative initiative, however, it means that no one can fiddle with acquis communautaire, and nothing more. Neither the Parliament nor Council are obliged by any treaty to embrace new law just because it is wise or necessary. And thus, a proposal of introducing a financial transaction tax (depending on kinds of securities from 0,1 to 1 per mill), thoroughly considered by the Commission, will probably end up in a drawer as it violates interests of powerbases of several member states’ governments.

Another problem, besides permanent interests, is political state of affairs of particular national governments that changes constantly. With 28 member states (taking Croatia into consideration) and four-year term of office, the European Union experiences parliamentary elections every seven weeks on average. Then one must consider early, presidential and, at least in Germany and Spain, regional elections. Some of them hinder decision making process even for a year prior and usually couple weeks after the voting, for some time is needed to get a new government going.

Intergovernmental EU created by the Treaty of Lisbon requires French-German cooperation at least and we can see clearly how badly it is hindered by the election calendar. Even if Sarkozy wins in May, there will be less than half a year for any action because Merkel starts her own campaign in the spring of 2013. If Sarkozy loses, the Commission will gain at least a year to generate good ideas – up until left wing wins in Germany as well.

It is true that every new institutional solution needs to “wrap up” and “settle.” Nevertheless, small adjustments are better to be introduced sooner than later. In the case of the Treaty of Lisbon, such adjustment would be the synchronization of elections to national parliaments. To have a chance of introducing in the next decade, the idea must be proposed today…

Translation: Małgorzata Jędrocha

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About Krzysztof Iszkowski

Sociologist of politics. Graduate of the University of Warsaw (sociology) and Warsaw School of Economics (international relations), PhD (2008) in the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Science. A member of the Research Center on Democracy, author of Liberte!.

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