Brussels Summit: A last one for the road

Article published on March 23, 2014
Article published on March 23, 2014

(Live from the summit)The European summit for heads of state that are opening today marks the end of an era. It’s indeed the last one of the Barroso Commission. That marks ten years that the latter was the head of Berlaymont (seat of the Commssion).

The Russ­ian in­ter­ven­tion in Crimea has ev­i­dently upset the ini­tial pro­gram of the sum­mit. Orig­i­nally, that one was ded­i­cated to ques­tions con­cern­ing the econ­omy, en­ergy, cli­mat changes and re­la­tions with Africa. Now, it seems that Crimea and Rus­sia are the only things on the pro­gram.

A cap­i­tal agree­ment

An agree­ment to fi­nalise the Eu­ro­pean sta­bil­ity mech­a­nism was found on Thurs­day morn­ing: the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Eu­ro­pean Coun­cil and Par­la­ment reached an agree­ment con­cern­ing a new de­vice to man­age bank­ruptcy in banks. The dis­cus­sion this af­ter­noon will focus on tax eva­sion and trans­parency in bank­ing: Lux­em­bourg and Aus­tria need to be con­vinced to share their in­for­ma­tion.

This agree­ment has re­sponded to the op­ti­mism of lead­ers of the in­sti­tu­tions. Thus, Her­man van Rompuy has qual­i­fied as the “pru­dent op­ti­mist”. Ac­cord­ing to a sea­soned jour­nal­ist it is rare to see Mis­ter Bar­roso and van Rompuy in such a good mood. We even saw José Manuel Bar­roso ex­chang­ing pleas­antries with a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Busi­ness Eu­rope.

A hard re­turn to re­al­ity

The de­vel­oppe­ment of the Ukran­ian cri­sis should should make the tone a bit more somber. Eu­rope has in­deed found it­self be­tween a rock and a hard place : how can they say no to the Crimean an­nex­a­tion with­out up­set­ting Rus­sia which is a vital part­ner of many of the Mem­ber States. On that sub­ject, the pres­i­dent Bar­roso has af­firmed that the Comm­sion will not ac­knowl­edge the Crimean an­nex­a­tion. It re­mains to be seen if the heads of state will reach a com­pro­mise that will have a chance of per­suad­ing Vladimir Putin.

If the mat­ter will sort it­self out­self out quickly enough, the Co­nun­cil might have the time to raise the issue of com­pet­i­tive­ness, pros­per­ity and em­ploy­ment. In fact, we have reached the end of the third Eu­ro­pean week and the mid-term of the pro­gram Eu­rope 2020. Which means it is the ideal mo­ment to make an as­sess­ment. We might fear that if this is not done, the crit­ics of the Union will re­joice and ac­cuse Eu­rope of re­fus­ing to ac­knowl­edge these fail­ures.

Fi­nally, it needs to be said that the Eu­ro­pean elec­tions will take place in two months and even if none of the par­tic­i­pants (ex­cept Mis­ter Schulz) is a can­di­date, politi­cians are al­ways more mo­ti­vated and en­gaged when an elec­tion is close. It re­mains to be seen if the re­sults of the sum­mit will be the height of their joy.