June 3, 2014
Last week our national leaders met for dinner to discuss the results of the European elections. As at many family dinners there were quite a few hot issues to be discussed and no solutions were found by dessert.
The nomination of the next President of the European Commission – earlier in the day, the presidents of the political groups of the European Parliament stated “the candidate of the largest Group Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker will be the first to attempt to form the required majority”. While there was no official comment on leaders’ private discussions, the nomination is still causing division. The UK Prime Minister may have said that he did not think Juncker was the right person for the job, and threated that choosing someone who was not a reformer could damage the EU’s image in Britain and make it more likely that Britons would vote to leave. Angela Merkel said on the contrary that she “will now lead all negotiations in the spirit that Jean-Claude Juncker should become President of the European Commission.” It is obvious that the Council is quite far away from consensus as the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi assessed: “Juncker is ‘one’ name for the Commission, but he is not ‘the’ name”. Herman van Rompuy has been given the mandate to conduct the consultations with the European Parliament.
The message – In the remarks from the President of the Council to the press, the assessment was that “voters sent a strong message and this message was at the heart of our discussions tonight”. What was this strong message? In the Social Platform team we all read the press release but found nothing that could give us a hint as to what this ‘strong message’ was.
The EU’s future – however, two days later, Herman van Rompuy gave us some indications as to the discussions held among the heads of state and government: “some call for ‘more’ Europe and some for ‘less’ – some even want a bit of both, depending on the issue. Hence perhaps the mix of reluctance and expectation”. With that many different views, this must have been quite a difficult evening for the President of the Council who is now in charge of having bilateral talks with the members of the European Council on the EU’s future priorities and strategic agenda. He has a month to write his report to be discussed at the next meeting on June 26.
What he knows is that that there was some form of agreement to concentrate on “jobs and recovery, deepening the monetary union, climate and energy, freedoms and security, and Europe’s action in the world”. Where the EU is heading is what is essential for us. The message that we want to hear from our leaders is that there is a need to get the balance right between a Europe that protects the people living in its territory and its economic agenda. We need a strong social dimension in EU policies to ensure the wellbeing of all people. That cannot remain unspoken and should be clearly stated on June 27 at the end of the European Council meeting.
Pierre Baussand – Director