We need more… what?

President Barroso’s state of the Union was undoubtfully an unprecedented speech, but even revealed a couple of things, which may be useful to think about.

The Portuguese head of Comission is the first to serve two mandates since 1995, when the doubling frenchman Jacques Delors was replaced by Jacques Santer. Does Barroso have the chance to make history by kickstarting the Union, just like Delors did? The short answer is: definitely. Now let’s have a closer look at it.

Delors managed to identify the main problems of the Communities/EU, what’s more, he even succeeded to push his visions through the Twelve (in one word it could be named as “deregulation”), helping the European integration break the deadlock.

President Barroso is facing a problem, which in some aspects looks like the depression of the early 80’s. An economic crisis is on track, so is euroscepticism, the Union is not, and the comissioners have to find a way out – along with the member states (let’s not talk about the number of member states – I’ll write about it later). What does a leader need? Plans.

But many criticism shed some light on the lack of “vision communautaire” in Barroso’s state of the Union speech, some claimed that the president had no plans for the future. Although the president of the Comission seemed like a powerful boss, who is giving an account of the achievements, objectives and challenges – while he was a person with his hands tied by the EU27. Mr Barroso haven’t convinced neither all the member states, nor the citizens that his visions are the best cure to remedy the European problems. (As written above, many think that he has no visions at all.)

What to do? Make people back the efforts. It’s not impossible, because the European citizens seem to desire “some more Europe” than in fall 2009 (at least regarding the financial and monetary policies), as the Eurobarometer survey of spring 2010 pointed out. But we have to make it clear: the figures of Eurobarometer doesn’t necessarily mean a need for a more centralized, more presidential, more communitarian Union. That does mean a need for a deepened, enhanced European cooperation to face effectively the economic challenges, if that cooperation is able to give a helping hand to the citizens in trouble. Yes, citizens want “more Europe”, if “more Europe” means more help, an easier way to make ends meet in a financial crisis.

If not, obstacles remain, just like blundering into newer agreements. In this case “more Europe” meant “more governmental influence in the European leadership”. It would also indicate that the European federalists’ worst nightmare comes true: intergovernmentalism will be even stronger.

Having listened to the state of the Union, it’s obvious that Barroso prefers the first scenario. It’s exciting to see how the president tries to form his own competences, what will he attain in the future. And to see if Mr Barroso becomes the next icon of the EU, or not.

Last but not least, it’s also exciting to see how things turn: will the European citizens really need more Europe? And what kind?

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  1. The seventh paragraph says it all, i.e., the “Eurobarometer doesn’t necessarily mean a need for a more centralized, more presidential, more communitarian Union. That does mean a need for a deepened, enhanced European cooperation to face effectively the economic challenges”. The paragraph expresses a desire to eat the cake and to still have it afterward. In other words, you simply can’t have both effective government and decentralized policy making structures. Extreme examples of decentralized policy making – e.g., Europe prior to the EU – lead to war.

    The problem with centralizing government is, typically, the centralization of accountability that tends to go along with it. Clearly following this pattern, the EU has moved more rapidly toward centralization of accountability than it has toward centralization of government! Thus, it presents the worst of both worlds – it is both ineffective because of too little centralization of government and it is unaccountable because of too much centralization of accountability. It is this combination that sours EU citizen opinion.

    No one is much interested in being under greater levels of personal accountability, politicians especially. But if Barroso wants to leave a historic mark on the EU, then he could do much worse than to successfully push institutions toward effective development and implementation of policy (centralization) while also accepting greater effective accountability to the EU citizens (decentralization). This is both possible and desirable.

  2. Dear OldStone50,

    Thank you for commenting.

    A new post is being written, touching upon many issues you’ve mentioned. Stay tuned!

    Best wishes,

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