The Curtain Rises on the Five-Year Plan
The challenge of focusing on a common vision will make the eight weeks leading to the All Saints’ deadline pretty frantic.
The Brussels press corps has been left champing at the bit throughout the summer. The word “procrastinate”, which I first learned in a biography of King Philip II of Spain I read as a schoolboy and which I thought very exotic, is now common currency in journalistic copy, not least when it comes to reporting on our EU statesmen taking a decision.
Perhaps Mrs. Merkel, with her mind on he 60th birthday celebrations awaiting in Berlin with the champagne on ice, felt that having hoisted Jean-Claude Juncker into the saddle at the Commission, other senior appointments at the EU institutions could be put on the long finger. The Council meeting on Wednesday 16 July decided to defer its decision on who should join Mr. Juncker, the number one Spitzenkandidat in the May 22/25 election, at the Spitze of the new European leadership team. Events over the summer have made clear that this delay has cost us dear.
Escalating tensions in eastern Ukraine, the sanctions imposed by the EU on Russia, the explosion of violence in Gaza and, perhaps the most ominous development, the emergence of ISIS in the fertile crescent, have impressed on us all how quickly serious situations can become critical. It was essential, if EU foreign policy were to have any credibility, that the EEAS be fronted quam primum by a forceful and focused leader. Even if we had to wait until 30 August, we can only but welcome the appointment of Mrs Federica Mogherini as High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
The grouping and grooming of the Juncker Commission, the allotment of portfolios, together with the blood-letting and disappointment that will inevitably accompany it, and then the challenge of focusing on a common vision will make the eight weeks leading to the All Saints’ deadline pretty frantic. We already know the names of some of the new commissioners yet even if a cluster of them are as Eurosceptic as Lord Hill (David Cameron’s mole and first pawn on the UK’s EU referendum chess-board), 'complimented' by Martin Schulz for his “radical anti-European views”, then finding a common vision to inspire the EU up to 2020 will be a tough challenge.
It has been apparent since the Spitzenkandidaten idea was launched, the self-congratulatory hubris at the Rue Wiertz since the 25 May election results were announced, and the election of Jean-Claude Juncker on 16 July, that the European Parliament, boosted by democratic endorsement of the new role it is carving out for itself, feels entitled to contribute to the shaping of the new Commission’s programme. That is no bad thing.
Mr. Juncker may not have mentioned the concept too frequently, but there is a growing conviction across the political spectrum that the Europe of tomorrow must cast the social dimension in high relief. Europe may still be a work in progress, yet it is the view of all but a few that whatever its future profile, it must have at its heart a society that is just and fair.
The new generation of European parliamentarians (58% if them are elected MEP for the first time), flush with ideas even if short on experience, will find a store of balanced wisdom and practical counsel in the social teaching of the Catholic Church. Europeinfos seeks to drip-feed that teaching to its readers and also to critically analyze EU policy issues through the prism of Catholic social doctrine. It is good to know we have a healthy number of MEP’s on our mailing list. It is to be hoped that in the new Parliament we will have more.
Patrick. H. Daly