EUROPEAN THINK-TANK REVIEW – XLII. (December 2014)

Written by | Tuesday, December 30th, 2014
European Values

Despite Attention Focusing on Juncker’s New Commission, the European Council Will Remain the Real Centre of EU Decision-Making
Uwe Puetter (LSE European Politics and Policy Blog)

When Donald Tusk, former Polish prime minister, was appointed the new President of the European Council in August this year, the event has been acknowledged by the media only briefly. The interest enjoyed by the new Commission headed by Jean-Claude Juncker and especially by the recent hearings before committees in the European Parliament is incomparably higher. But can we consequently talk about a transfer of the decision-making center from the European Council to the Commission?

Although it may seem that the arrival of new Commission is marked by the executive center’s increased power and influence, we still cannot interpret it as that this important EU institions has taken over the reins of the “European government”. With the increasing number of European policies, it is ever more important to ensure that the decision-making on key issues related to the Member States (the euro area, foreign policy) will enjoy the widest compromise possible. And despite the fact that the pressure is growing from many circles for the emergence of a stronger and thus more efficient Commission, the boundaries of its decision-making do not provide for a greater leeway. Alternatively, they provide more leeway but only to extend its mandate from the European Council.

Jean-Claude Juncker is not a novice in European politics. The longest-serving member of the European Council, he used to serve as the president of so-called Eurogroup, now a formal panel of Eurozone finance ministers. In his decision-making, he will seek to establish close and good relations with the European Council, but he will not try to outrun it.

Tusk’s predecessor, Van Rompuy, focused on a compact and consensus-seeking European Council. After his entry into the top European politics, Tusk will try to reach this goal as well. Equally interesting factor that will definitely help him is the fact that, like his predecessor, he was appointed as the president of the Euro Summit, a body similar to the Eurogroup, composed of the heads of state of the Eurozone.
(The study can be downloaded here:http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2014/10/20/despite-attention-focusing-on-junckers-new-commission-the-european-council-will-remain-the-real-centre-of-eu-decision-making/)


Reconciling EU Interests and Values: A New Vision for Global Development
Sebastian Moffet (Friends of Europe)

The European Union faces a major challenge, which is to realize its important role in today’s globalized world and to create ambitious plans to tackle today’s global problems. Any consideration of this responsibility and possible political decisions should revolve around five key points. The first is a more inclusive world economy, while the others are environmental sustainability, peace and security, democracy and human rights and the reduction of poverty and inequality in the world. Today, there is no separation between “them” and “us”, there is only “us”. This idea comes mainly from changes in relations between the EU and the developing countries. As the latter’s economies grow, the interdependence is getting more important and problems in these regions become also problems of people in the European Union.

European problems require global solutions and global problems require uniform actions of the Union. This logic is also confirmed by the strategy of Jean-Claude Juncker, who has consolidated international cooperation and development into one portfolio in his new commission. As the example of the Netherlands shows, the policy combining both traditional development assistance and trade with these regions is particularly successful. Juncker wants to imitate this logic, which could be a step in the right direction. Jointly solving global problems and promoting European economic and social model is not enough. Europe must also serve as a good example to developing countries. One of the steps towards this goal might be to prove to the private sector that environmental protection is not necessarily inconsistent with economic growth. This is the only way for the climate and energy package to be adopted unanimously in Paris in 2015.

In the past, the Europeans claimed that they do not suffer from the same problems as citizens of developing countries. Today, however, this distinction disappears, as poverty, climate change and human rights are challenges of a truly global nature. The fact that a billion people must live on less than one dollar a day, and likewise the fact that 400 million citizens of the G20 countries must live on less than two dollars a day, are problems that are clearly common to all humans. New European leaders must realize that development within the Union cannot be separated from global development. Will they realize it and will they be able to take a global perspective in their political decision-making and consequently adopt a new approach to international development? We will see the results soon, but the truth is that much depends on the new EU leaders.
(The study can be downloaded here:http://www.friendsofeurope.org/media/uploads/2014/10/FoE-Report-Reconciling-EU-Interests-16-10-2014-WEB.pdf)


A New Ambition for Europe: A Memo to the European Union Foreign Policy Chief
Daniel Keohane, Stefan Lehne, Ulrich Speck and Jan Techau (Carnegie Europe)

Europe in its entirety is becoming an increasingly important international actor. And it is the European Union whose foreign policy – hitherto widely perceived as being ambiguous and inconsistent – that is the most influential instrument of asserting the interests of the “Old Continent”. Despite the complex character of the whole ‘organization’, the EU is a significant global player especially with regard to economic indices. However, an economic confidence must be supported with a firm political stance which could help improving the uncertain reputation of the EU foreign policy.

Firstly, a unification of the EU foreign policy representation is needed; the priorities must be clarified and the presentation must be self-consistent. Next, a more assertive communication with desirable international actors should be initiated, where the short-term and the long-term goals would be clearly defined. Specifically, this means a broader support of neighboring democracies such as Moldova, Ukraine, Morocco, Tunisia, or Georgia. Furthermore, on a global scale, there should be a palpable co-operation with Australia, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea.

Moreover, violent conflicts demand a more assertive approach in spite of EU’s lack of military capabilities. It is essential not to fear confrontation and, in the case of a conflict, use the economic instruments. Related to the proactive attitude is the question of enlarging the Union, including the resolution of the Western Balkans integration and the potential accession of the states of South Caucasus.

Finally, an emphasis is placed on the importance of the relations with key global powers: maintenance of positive relations with the United States, where TTIP is a suitable initiative; a clear identification of the EU’s relations with Southeast Asia with special regard to China; and finally a consolidation of the relations with Russia, where the determination to communicate should not cease. In conclusion, a substantial condition for a better functioning of the EU foreign policy is the efficiency of the institutions responsible for the international representation of the EU. The new High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will be held responsible for the improvement of the communication along with the advancement of her advisory body – the European External Action Service.
(The study can be downloaded here:http://carnegieeurope.eu/2014/10/28/new-ambition-for-europe-memo-to-european-union-foreign-policy-chief/hszg)

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