EU seeks to boost self-confidence

Stalled appointments unlocked. The "common home's" obstacles and challenges

The European Council of August 30, meant to identify internal responsibilities and address major challenges regarding foreign affairs, has delivered a set of fixed points, legitimate doubts that will need to be cleared up, along with hanging issues.  Achieved results. In the EU seat the standstills regarding the appointment of the next president of the European Council and the High Representative of Foreign Affairs and Common Security were finally unlocked. The posts were respectively assigned to Polish Premier Donald Tusk, a statesman with great political experience, among the heirs of Solidarnosc, and to Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, thereby managing to achieve a balance between the requests of Member States and those of European political parties. Further “pleas” will be met with the assignment of further posts, ranging from the chair of Eurogroup president to the appointment of European commissioners. From this perspective the mediation skills of the Commission’s president-designate, Jean-Claude Juncker, are a guarantee. Past Saturday’s summit also highlighted the ongoing concern of Germany and of North European Countries re the soundness of member States’ public accounts, notably those in south and Eastern Europe. Pressures were made on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, ECB chairman Mario Draghi and Junker to this regard. Indeed, also Nordic countries agree on the need to provide concrete support to growth through public investments and perhaps also by mitigating rigour. But the stability of Eurozone countries depends, inter alia, on sound public accounts, and nobody, starting with Germany, intends to expose the single currency to risks. The heads of government and States also shared concerns over the expansion of Ukraine’s conflict. Putin’s threats to Kiev, along with Russia’s military support to eastern rebels, are a fact. The EU has made tentative, unconvincing threats of retaliation, which would in fact impact the EU’s already weakened economy (energy supplies, import/exports of agricultural produce, contracts of European companies with Russia). Moscow might take advantage of European and international uncertainties to get its hands on Ukraine or part of its territory once and for all.  Question marks. The composition of the “Junker team” remains a major hanging question. The Commissioners’ college will have to be created on the basis of the competences of candidates suggested by Member States’ governments, respecting at the same time a set of criteria, namely, equal distribution of responsibilities – thereby meeting the ambitions at national level – the specific balance of political groups (EPP, Socialists & Democrats, Liberal-Democrats, Conservatives, etc.) as well as “gender equality.” These are obstacles that should not be underestimated, also since the European Parliament – yet another unknown factor – has the power to promote or reject candidates to the position of Commissioner, along with the entire college. And Junker cannot afford a slip in Strasbourg. In fact, the European Parliament has urged Junker to undertake the path of growth and flexibility, and the president in pectore of the Commission has pulled out a 300 bln investment plan from a magic hat. He is now expected to pass from words to action. Economy, internal borders. As regards hanging issues – emergencies knocking on Brussels’ doors – the picture is rather complex. According to one interpretation of the European Council’s Conclusions the economic crisis remains the primary concern. EU-28 agreed to table their next meeting in Rome in October for an extraordinary summit. The document states: “despite remarkable improvements in the conditions of financial markets along with the structural efforts of member countries, the economic and occupational situation in Europe is a source of major concerns. Over the past weeks the economic data has confirmed that recovery, especially in eurozone countries, is weak, inflation is excessively low and unemployment excessively high.” There ensues that the economic situation is the top item on the agenda, along with “external threats”, and the armed conflicts in the area surrounding the EU: Ukraine, the Holy Land, Iraq and Syria, not to mention the danger of a spread of Ebola. A matter of confidence. Further problems linger on: the United Kingdom’s apparently increasing distance from Brussels; the Balkans’ unclear process for European democracy (Bosnia Herzegovina is preparing upcoming elections within an internal climate of divisions and poverty, while Kosovo reached a boiling point, and Serbia is an unpredictable factor); Scotland will go to the polls to decide whether to break away from London, implying its detachment from the EU; Catalan separatists have no intention of renouncing their extremist stands. Today’s Union needs to assess its Member Countries’ joint determination to build a “common home” for everyone’s benefit, based on mutual confidence between national governments, between the former and its citizens, between Member States and the EU. Confidence – in politics and economy alike – is an impalpable, albeit fundamental element. Nothing can be achieved without it, while confidence is a thrust to overcome apparently insurmountable obstacles.

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