One should read with keen attention the word pronounced by Mr. Barroso, the European Commission (EC) President, yesterday for the (EU) State of the Union. They contain many interesting suggestions for the way ahead.
Being far away from the Bruxelles’ day to day activity, not discussing and reading every single memo that circulates in each EC office, my words that follow might sound those of a naive observer detached from the evolution of European matters. But since Mr. Barroso himself launches “an appeal also to European thinkers. To men and women of culture, to join this debate on the future of Europe“, let me humbly say what strikes me as wrong or detached from reality in his speech.
1. I find it striking that such an important evolution of the European framework, and the related Treaty changes, so well described by Mr. Barroso, are to be presented and proposed by the European Commission and not by an elected group of representatives, were they to be from the European Parliament, the national ones or the European Council. I do not think this as an irrelevant matter. Technocrats do not make proposals for changes of Constitutions. People and their representative do. If Europe today lacks the necessary amount of European democracy, as Mr. Barroso correctly underscores, stances of this type reinforce the perception and the problem. I say this also to underscore the slow capacity of the European Parliament to strike rapidly and cohesively for change in Europe, leaving the agenda too much in the hands of the EC.
2. I find it quite striking that we are entering again in a new debate of changes in the Treaties, with all the huge distraction that comes with it in terms of the inevitable efforts of the national governments and bureacracies to participate in it. Especially in a moment when momentous decisions are awaited by the people, like relieving many of them from the suffering and from the fears that come with instability. We have not shown yet the capacity to create a genuine European sentiment by providing immediate solutions to those problems and we are willing to embark in a new legal adventure? Isn’t there again a huge disconnect between European reality and European institutions that needs to be erased before proceeding further ahead?
3. Mr. Barroso, you say: “Allow me to say a word on Greece. I truly believe that we have a chance this autumn to come to the turning point. If Greece banishes all doubts about its commitment to reform. But also if all other countries banish all doubts about their determination to keep Greece in the Euro area, we can do it. I believe that if Greece stands by its commitments it should stay in the Euro area, as a member of the European family.” I find this statement self-defeating and depressing. Selfdefeating because, by mentioning the word ”if” you are putting into doubt the irreversibility of Greek permanence within the euro (contrary the words of Mr. Draghi which I understand to mean, when he says the euro is irreversible, that it is for each single euro country) . Depressing, because, Mr. Barroso, in a Union there should be no “if”. In a Union, you belong, like in a family, whether you are a black or white sheep (and let me tell you right now thaI can hardly see one black sheep ion Europe). “If” Alabama was told that it could be be let go because of its less than perfect record on racial issues compared to say, Massachusetts, do you think the United States would become a stronger or a weaker Union? I truly think a weaker one, and Alabama, left alone, would lose its drive to slowly and voluntarily improve its institutions and its racial tolerance.
PS: one final detail. There is quite a symbolism in the State of the Union being pronounced in Europe by the Head of a non democratically elected body, while in the United States it is read by the President himself. In that sense, one must appreciate the proposal of Barroso to have in the next European Parliament elections in which each European party proposes the name of their candidate for the EC Presidency. It should be a positive evolution.