The European Union now has its own shadow European Council, which at its first summit yesterday (22 March) drew up a list of conclusions criticising EU leaders’ actions taken so far and called for a new pact on economic governance and more consistency in foreign policy, fully respecting the Lisbon Treaty.
The EU has failed and even violated the Treaty,” said Daniel Cohn-Bendit, co-chair of the Greens/European Free Alliance group in the European Parliament and a leader of the recently-established Spinelli Group, which launched the first Shadow European Council ahead of the EU leaders summit this week (24-25 March).
The total lack of consistency in foreign policy has made the European Union look ridiculous, claimed Cohn-Bendit, presenting the Shadow Council conclusions. He stressed that the different positions and votes of EU countries on the UN resolution authorising a no-fly zone over Libya was “absurd”.
Tripping over the Lisbon Treaty
According to the Spinelli Group, which defends a pro-European approach against the tendency of member states to resort to intergovernmentalism in European decision-making, the EU has disregarded Article 34 of the Lisbon Treaty.
The article stipulates that member states should coordinate their action in international organisations and conferences and that the High Representative, currently Baroness Catherine Ashton, should organise such coordination.
Slamming both Ashton and other EU leaders, Cohn-Bendit noted that the European Parliament would from now on demand greater action from the EU foreign affairs chief. “She can’t just give us her agenda and tell us about the people she has met: that is not enough,” he said.
On tackling the Arab revolt and especially the Libya crisis, there has been a total lack of initiative, echoed Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberal ALDE group in the European Parliament, who appears to be the group’s frontman alongside Cohn-Bendit.
“It is not enough to say we are concerned, there needs to be concerted action,” said Verhofstadt.
“We ask for this coordination to urgently start. We finally need a European foreign policy,” read the Spinelli Group conclusions, pointing to the fact that the Arab revolts are fighting for the same universal values that Europe stands for and need to be nurtured.
Such an approach is even more pressing now that revolts are also deteriorating in Bahrain and Syria, which are not even on this week’s European Council agenda, added Verhofstadt, who called as a first step for specific sanctions to be imposed against the regime and, in the case of Syria, for partnership negotiations to be suspended.
Not only balanced budgets
Referring to the eruozone crisis, Verhofstadt repeated once more his views that balanced budgets and fiscal discipline alone will not deliver greater wealth: more investment is needed to spur growth in the 27 member states.
The Shadow European Council concurred that the EU must launch an ambitious 10-year investment plan worth over €4 trillion, to be raised mostly from the private sector.
The idea is to issue EU project bonds to boost modernisation and the transition to a low-carbon economy. Such investments would include education, transport and energy infrastructure.
With the EU limited budget and austerity plans being followed in the member states, such plans might seem to face large obstacles. But the initiative has actually received the backing of the president of the European Commission himself.
Speaking to the Parliament in December, José Manuel Barroso pledged to “insist” on tabling plans to introduce EU project bonds to fund infrastructure in Europe, as an alternative to the controversial idea of Eurobonds.
For a Federal Act for economic governance
The Shadow Council also stamped its feet over economic governance and called for the establishment of a federal policy for economic convergence in the euro zone.
“The failure of previous efforts at economic recovery suggests that the intergovernmental method whereby the states monitor and control the process does not work,” read the conclusions, which spell out the need for a proactive European Commission that must be able to impose corrective measures and sanctions.
Some will argue that calls for such a Federal Act are destined to remain wishful thinking, but Verhofstadt argues that the Act includes the current six proposals on economic governance and the pact for the euro, on which the Parliament has co-decision powers — at least on four of them.
“The pact for the euro is too little, too late. The heads of state and government lack a global vision and are distracted by short-term solutions. A better long-term approach is required,” said members of the Shadow European Council.