Chess game of appointments

Nothing was decided at the European Council of 16 July. Negotiations and political liturgies break into Brussels' scene

Now it’s serious. Politics – with its principles and objectives, its rules, negotiations overt or concealed, long timeframes – have broken into Brussels’ scene making the institutional framework more complex and perhaps also more transparent. At the same time it’s an expression of a democratic interplay whereby national interests are balanced out by those of the Community, by ideological pressures, the pressures of the parties, personal ambitions of leaders. For this reason, the European Council of 16 July has lagged behind in taking decisions on the high offices of the Union. It’s not enough to raise one’s voice: interested parties need to be convinced with good reasons. All or nothing. “We need an agreement on a global package” on the highest positions in Europe: namely, the President of the European Council, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, the president of the Eurogroup. “If there is no agreement on the whole package there can be no agreement at all”. “We have not focused on a name as if the whole deal depended on this.” Herman Van Rompuy, Belgian President of the European Council, gave a detailed briefing on the 28th Summit of Heads of State and Government at the Justus Lipsius building. Any decision regarding the the “top positions” has been adjourned to a new summit set for August 30. The discussion opened focusing on the chosen candidate for the post of High Representative (which is entrusted with the responsibility of Vice President of the Commission) due to replace British Labour MP Catherine Ashton, whose term will expire on November 30. Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, supported by a group of Countries, proposed the candidacy of Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini: but evidently she does not enjoy unanimous support, especially not that of certain East and North European countries, on the assumption that on the one hand the head of Italian diplomacy lacks sufficient experience at international level, on the other, that her positions are too close to Russia and to those of President Putin. Whether true or false, her candidacy was not successful, and it will be introduced within negotiations on the entire candidate package due to be unravelled in the coming weeks. States, parties, leaders… These appointments, as specified in the Council “Conclusions” will be “considered collectively”. “In Europe, especially since the vote of 22 to 25 May and the new political role assumed by the European Parliament in Strasbourg in the choice of the President of the Commission (Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg, elected with a large majority vote at the Assembly on 15 July) a new page has been turned, whereby multifarious elements and positions must be considered for every decision. The Germany of Angela Merkel placed on the negotiating table the weight of her country, that everyone acknowledges – whether for the good or for the bad; the United Kingdom of David Cameron continues putting its foot down on each step towards integration, and some are starting to wonder whether the presence of London in the European club is strictly necessary; Francois Hollande’s France, as always, believes to be the centre of the continent, but today more than a few are questioning that assumption. And so on… How important is Poland and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe in Brussels’ democracy?’ And the Nordic countries? What is the weight of the consensus gained by the large European political groups in past May’s elections? Will the agreement between the EPP and the Socialists & Democrats, backed by the Liberal Democrats, which led to the appointment of Juncker, hold up in the long run, when, in addition to the division of seats, the time will come to define and pursue a project for the future of the EU ? Ukraine and the Middle East. These are the realms which the Community ‘Agora’ is called to address, while in the meantime there are various urgent challenges at internal level (economic and employment crises, migrations, fundamental rights, energy and environmental policy, support to less developed regions…) and externally (enlargement, commercial partnership with the United States, armed conflicts and instability in the Middle East and in Africa). During the European Council, in fact, the 28 leaders have discussed two international emergencies: Ukraine and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the first case, the EU has opted for “soft” sanctions, compared to those decided in the same hours by the United States, when calling once again for “a peaceful resolution of the crisis, and in particular the urgent need to be agreed by all parties of an effective ceasefire” in order to implement the peace plan of President Poroshenko. To Russia, the EU asks to end all forms of support to the armed rebels in east Ukraine. In the meanwhile new loans to the Russian Federation by the European Investment Bank have been frozen. On the situation in the Holy Land, the European Council “condemns the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel, and indiscriminate attacks against civilians”. Israel “has the right to protect its population from such attacks”, but it must “act in a proportionate manner”. The EU therefore called for on an immediate ceasefire along with the “resumption of the diplomatic process” to “find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the coexistence of two states”.

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