Monday 9. December 2019
#140 July-August 2011

 

Taking stock of the Summit – the European Council meeting of 23- 24 June

 

It appears that even the European Council is not entirely comfortable with its decisions. At least, that is the impression you are left with after reading the conclusions of the 23-24 June Summit. However, common good of Europe is not decided by the 27 Heads of State and Government alone – thank goodness – but is rather the result of the interplay of many forces in Europe.

 

First, take economic policy. When it came to addressing the practice of joint appraisal of the national budget plans for the following year (a plan introduced in the wake of the Eurozone debt crisis and dubbed ‘European Semesters’), this received only a lukewarm reception in the Summit conclusions, which have the status of an official European Council document. The budget plans and measures presented were “a good starting point for… driving more ambitious reforms.” Yet, whether or not ‘the good starting point’ will actually be used is beyond the collective competence of the Summit participants. It is now in the hands of whoever calls the shots in the Member States. Even the first session of the new ‘Euro-Plus Pact’ (set up to promote a rapprochement in structural policy and to strengthen the Euro Member States) has so far failed to deliver the much-needed success people were hoping for. After giving the measures presented by governments the once-over, the assembled Heads of State and Government came to the conclusion that these measures should really be “broader” and “more concrete” with a “higher degree of ambition” next time round.

 

Nor was the European Council able to rule unequivocally on the reform of the Stability and Growth Pact, which monitors budgetary deficits and the level of debt in Euro Member States. On this point the European Parliament stuck to its demand that recommendations made by the European Commission on avoiding excessive deficits can only be revoked by the Council if backed by a qualified majority vote (55% of Member States that represent at least 65% of the population).

 

The European Council also agreed to postpone the decision on paying the fifth instalment of the first of the aid programmes destined for Greece.  The process was said to hinge on obtaining as much support as possible for a new austerity package in the Greek parliament. “Given the length, magnitude and nature of required reforms in Greece, national unity is a prerequisite for success,” the Summit participants declared in a message aimed in particular as a response to the address given by the Greek opposition leader, Antonis Samara. Prior to the Summit, he had resisted all pleas and requests from his political friends in the EPP to stop resisting the austerity package. The final decision on the payment of instalments was placed in the hands of the economic and finance ministers who, at the beginning of July, will be meeting at the EcoFin Council and in the Euro group during the same week.

 

They will also have the task of working out the details of a second aid package for Greece totalling (once again) at least €100 billion. But this will only see the light of day if private banks get on board. Without long-term support to overcome the mountains of debt and the kind of short-term jump-starts required to turn the ailing economy around, the cradle of European culture has no future. It could even, should the crisis migrate to other European countries and banks, end up being the country that buried European economic and monetary union once and for all. What’s more, this is a view that is likely to be shared by a clear majority of the European Council. That explains why, in spite of all reservations, there will be a further rescue package.

 

The European Council members were all singing the same tune when it came to the second major Council topic: migration. The free movement of persons within the European Union is not up for negotiation: this was the message coming over loud and clear, particularly from the Polish government and the Hungarian Council Presidency. France’s request to extend a safeguard clause on the temporary reintroduction of controls on persons was only partially met. The task of drafting proposals for this clause now lies with the European Commission, which is also due to present ideas for the extension of Frontex, the EU agency for border protection.

 

Rounding up the conclusions, we come to the unreservedly positive decisions made at the Summit: Croatia’s accession in 2013; the appointment of Mario Draghi as President of the ECB; the endorsement of the Danube Strategy; the package of measures on integrating the Roma people; a clear condemnation of dictators Gaddafi and Assad; and a pledge to reach the target of 0.7% GDP in development aid by 2015.

 

Stefan Lunte

 

Translated from the Original German

 

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