The Nordic diplomat disconsolately flutters the draft “annotated agenda” meant to serve as a guideline for the meeting of the 28 heads of Government and State gathered in Brussels on 18 December. Walking in front of the Christmas tree, soberly decorated at the entrance to the Justus Lipsius building, headquarter of the European Council, he whispers: “These sheets of paper have become useless”. He then clarifies: “We can’t keep up with the news: the events of the past weeks, of the past days, even of the past hours, would require a different agenda”. The “Sherpa” (the name given to EU Countries negotiators in the Community seat) points the finger at a basic fact. The summit was convened, as usual, before the end of the year mainly to discuss two points: the investment plan presented by the Commission and the Ukraine-case. But in fact, the “Juncker plan” (21 billion secured by the EU budget and by the European Investment Bank in addition to the leverage of an ambitious 1 to 15 ratio) is viewed half-heartedly by the European Parliament and by Member States alike, which appear unwilling to support it. On the other hand, the question of Eastern neighbours rather than the name of Ukraine should bear that of Russia, which is the real problem of Europe in that region. The latest and somewhat threatening statements of Vladimir Putin, the instability of the rouble, energy supplies, the sprawling tentacles of Moscow upon the Eastern provinces of Ukraine, pose serious questions to the EU. Struggling on the domestic front, the Russian president relies on nationalism, on promises (“we will overcome the crisis”) and on external “ghosts” that threaten his country. In his annual address to the nation, just when European leaders were arriving in Brussels for the summit, Putin said: “Our partners have decided that they are an empire and that all the others are their vassals that must be crushed”. He continued: “The Berlin Wall collapsed, but new walls are being erected despite our attempts to cooperate. Isn’t the expansion of NATO a virtual wall?” In this climate one should be prepared for anything … Perhaps this is also why the possibility of new sanctions against Moscow divides EU 28. To the two items on the agenda of the European Council, partly “disrupted” by recent events, was added another, faultlessly not envisaged by new president Donald Tusk, (Poland), who succeeded Belgian statesman Herman Van Rompuy last December 1. In no particular order: the proposed reconciliation between the US and Cuba; the European Parliament vote that recognizes the Palestinian state; the antidemocratic drift adopted by Erdogan’s Turkey; the continuation of the Middle Eastern conflict triggered by the troops of the Caliphate; the return of terrorist threats; the endless inflow of migrants towards northern Mediterranean shores. Not to mention – and perhaps this is the problem that everyone is promptly conscious of- the umpteenth adjournment of economic recovery. There is an urgent need for the EU to reconsider its priorities, to review the issues that require a single and authoritative voice, to close ranks with regard to efforts aimed at economic recovery, the only goal truly coveted by European citizens today, who expect employment, steady income and the return of public investments in the area of services, education, health, research, security. The Juncker Plan remains in the spotlight, even though the German Chancellor insists on defining rigor in public accounts as a mandatory prerequisite for recovery-targeted investments. Ahead of the European Council Merkel pointed out before the Bundestag: “European economic policy must be based on growth-friendly fiscal consolidation”, that must be coupled by “the dismantling of excessive red tape”, and, thirdly, by an “investment plan”. Also because, Merkel pointed out, “jobs are created by enterprises”; and that is why “private investments should be mobilized first”. The picture is complex as always. EU action takes place in an ever-changing and hardly encouraging scenario. And yet there appears to be the glimpse of a new awareness on urgent common responses to the obstacles that lie ahead, on a European scale. It’s not everything, but it’s much more than nothing.
Challenges for Europe range from the economy to security, from migration to the social model. Current events call EU 28 into question