Sunday, 31 May 2009

Why did the Convention fail.... or did it?

I keep on repeating myself. It still bothers me why the European project does not have a clear acceptable description of what it is. Why almost 60 years after the Declaration of Robert Schuman we did not agree where we want to go and how we want to do it.

Ok, we are learning by doing. Who would ever say that these poor, post-communist Poles with many complexes and fighting style will ever steer the European project (second half of 2011). Do we really trust others that they will take into account our interest and not drive through our country like Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin used to do. Each nation state has gone through a long debate about issues like what means human rights (right to kill, right to believe, right to protest, right to protect). And actually the drafting of the Charter of Fundamental Rights was a good exercise in creating ambiguous compromises and blurring the meaning of words. I think this debate is not over but we need it. This is a major debate of any federalism: how far can a central judiciary intervene in the parts which compose the polity. I think we need a debate about the rights of gay marriages in less liberal states. And the rights of gypsies to settle down on the outskirts of Rome. And the rights of employers to sack all the workers and bring Latvian cheaper workforce with a temporary contract.

I think we have forgotten that building of the single market was not the aim in itself. That it is only a tool for a greater cause. And this cause is much closer to the Kantian proposal to establish peace among nations. And even if 55 years after the world war II we already think it is unthinkable again we still need to go back to this primary preoccupation and bring back its own sense.

Bacause both the conference in Hague in 1949 (establishement of the Council of Europe) and the Schuman declaration had this basic preoccupation in mind. But to be really in line with the facts, the institutional structure proposed by Schuman has changed considerable over time as a result of internal negotiations and changing priorities.

But when I hear all these discussions about 'Europe puissance' - the power of Europe, it is really the old French dream of establishing world rules that comes to my mind. Yes we have interests and want to spread our values. But really a common foreign policy which is the reason for criticising Europe is at the end a secondary preoccupation. The major one was always internal. The Americans via NATO took care of Western Europe external security, so there was only the inner one to cope then. But it is true that one day the external security might become the primary one. Terrorism in fact is a serious threat. But still many times this comes eventually back to the one of integration of foreigners (Muslem British or Germans) in the societies. There is also state terrorism which has not die out with the end of cold war. But I think I shall come back to these issues later because the logic of this post is getting lost.

Still this is the major challenge of writing about EU. Whatever you start with it brings you always to other issues and it is difficult to conclude.

So coming back to the issue of Convention (on the Future of Europe). Did it fail or not really?
It failed largely because:
1. It failed to attract enough media and politician attention before the closing months when the real articles of the 'Constitutional Treaty' have been assambled together.
2. It produced a long juridical text which does not pass the test of explaining or resolving the fundamental dillemas of the European project. It has been kidnapped by lawyers.
3. It (President) forced a controversial idea of changing voting rules in the name of efficiency and simplicity, which applied directly create a risk of giving too substantial powers to the largest nation states.

It succeeded because:
1. It has initiated a huge debate inside EU and closed the period when European politics has been confined to elitist groups.
2. It has shown to many federalists the limits of comparison with USA and the process of statebuilding and the mobilising force of European ideal.
3. The Convention has established a precedent/model of debate and negotiation which is superior to the model of Intergovernmental Conferences.

Ok, that's it for now. I will come back to these issues again.

Friday, 29 May 2009

elections in the EU

I am following the elections in the EU. I use this term on purpose. These are not European elections. Timothy Garton Ash said this. That actually we selecting our candidates to seat in the European Chamber of Deputies (this is me). The name Parliament is misleading too. This is only the 'House of Commons' while the Council of Ministers is 'House of Lords'. Or the other way round.

The problem with the EU is that people try to describe by using parallels to the existing political systems. But like every system, this one is different. The waiting for the Lisbon treaty makes things even more complicated. Which names should we use. Which compentences belong too whom...

I would like to have one day a clear 'narrative' about the EU. Narrative which names things. And if there is no clarity about sth, it uses a language which opens the issue, rather than closing it/lying about the underlying problem.

I got very enthusiastic when following the questions put during the Nice summit, the Laeken declaration was elaborated in 2001. I am afraid that 8 years later we are not much closer to having an answer to the questions elaborated there. Do we need one treaty which would clarify the nature of the EU? For me the answer is yes. Should we call it a constitution? Probably not. But how should we call it then? Should it be a 'statement of principles'. Sounds boring already.

The EU has changed a lot since. I must say I like the major developement - Eastern enlargement. I was always hoping that the EU would clarify what it is after this enlargement, not as a precondition to it. But the shere numbers make me scared. 27. How can you dialogue with 27 MS. If my family had 27 members I am not sure I would remember all names :). How do you seat them around the table? Do you make a separate one for the kids (this is how dealt with such issues during parties). Poor guys who are chairing a meeting. There is no discussion in 27.

Coming back to the elections in Europe. We are approaching a cut off point. Then we shall have a fixed picture of what is EU now. What people think. What careers have they pursued. Do they want to defend their small angle, village, country or do they want to tackle wider subjects - internet: youtube or facebook, problems of fertility, the impact of tourism on economy, how to deal with people who hate what represent current London or New York.

Surely there will be a mix. One third hard working and ambitious, one third just trying to keep about the surface and a third whose ambitions (or lack of it) shall lie outside the European agora. Still this cut off point is important. I am not convincing anybody to vote. I just want to show that it is worth watching the show, even when it turns completely abberant.

I hope that the new Parliament will make some waves in the selection of the next college of Commissioners. I hope for a lot of troublemaking. Because troublemaking means people have to position themselves, which means reading, which means understanding more. I think that the fall of Czech government made huge publicity about what presidency means. So I hope that the post of next President of the European Commission will not be given without fight. I think it deserves this. We deserve this!

So I wait till next Sunday and then: alea acta est! have a good weekend!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

hesitations of a eurocrat

As you will see quickly English is not my mother tongue. I work for the EU institutions. 3 years right now. But the official policy of EU institutions is that I cannot speak to the press, unless authorised by my superiors and communication Unit. I risk sanctions (actually did not check what type). In general terms I like my job and I would like to continue the career. Do I need to keep silent?

On the other hand I have devoted last 10 years studying the European integration. I even made a Ph.D. about the Convention that has drafted the 'defunct' (dead) European Constitution. When I was given my Ph.D. title I solemnly sworn to - something like: in my life stick to the principles of science which means trying to seek the truth and describe reality for others (I confabulate a bit, but you get the point). Can I write in my personal capacity? Blog is such a tool by nature, isn't it?

Why I want to write a blog? Because I am thinking and discussing different aspects of EU on a daily basis. I would like to share it with others. I want to confront my thinking because my experience says that unless something is written down, it gots lost somehow.

But I have to live with this dual position. Being a private citizen with a freedom of expression and working in the big machine of European institutions. This is not an official blog of a person you can easily identify but on the other hand with time I am sure it will be easy to trace me. So I will try live with this duality. Please understand it.

This is actually my second blog. The first, in my native language, I started writing during my studies - 5 years ago. It died very quickly. I hope that this one will last longer.
So here we go.... aplause :)
As the Chinese say... a tour around the world starts with one step.