With the EU27 national leaders busy reflecting on the future of the European Union ahead of the 25 March 2017 Rome declaration, where are the possible obstacles to sufficient reforms in the light of the challenges?
European Parliament debate
On 1 March 2017, the same day the Juncker Commission launched the White Paper on the future of Europe, the European Parliament plenary debated the challenges and scenarios, here related in Finnish.
The EPP Group greeted the discussion paper, and the S&D, ALDE and Green groups called for a more robust and democratic EU, but here I am going to highlight just one exchange, which illustrates the obstacles to real reform.
Gianni Pittella, the leader of the Socialists and Democrats, was disappointed that the Commission’s White Paper did not clearly indicate the fifth option of doing more together, now that the EU faces unprecedented external and internal challenges and European families are struggling to make ends meet.
There is so much left to do. Our House needs a strong Social Pillar to protect our citizens. And it needs European fiscal capacity. We must complete the European monetary union and build a sustainable Europe capable of fighting climate change and creating jobs and growth. We must combat tax fraud, and the project of a common European army is now more important than ever. We have to defend our inclusiveness without leaving aside the eastern countries. We can only achieve this if we stay united as Europeans. President Juncker, I call on you and on your Commission to take on your responsibility. You are the guardians of the Treaties, the guardians of the common European good and our common European future at this time. We ask you to show leadership and urge the Council to take on their historic duty.
In a couple of weeks, we will celebrate the anniversary of the Rome Treaties. Only some years after a terrible world war in Europe, political leaders had the courage to commit to European unity and explained to their citizens why we Europeans are stronger together. After decades in which Europe has brought us peace and prosperity, is it really too much to ask of this generation of leaders to commit to Europe and make it stronger for the future? Let us not give up. Let us show political leadership in the fight together for a Europe that is better and stronger, so that our children and their children will have a good future.
Summing up the debate, president Jean-Claude Juncker defended the choice of a discussion paper. With regard to the Socialist Group, he asked them:
…two weeks hence, while identifying those who are for the option 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5, to bring him the group opinion on the issue. Do not forget to speak with the socialist prime ministers, above all do not forget to do this. You are not prime ministers, which is unfortunate for your countries, but they are and they think the opposite of what you are saying.
The Commission’s invitation to discuss consists of one main document and two short annexes, the first containing a timetable for the debate and the second one a graphic compilation of all five scenarios (none of them designed to be quite readable):
White Paper on the future of Europe: Reflections and scenarios for the EU27 by 2025; Brussels, 1.3.2017 COM(2017) 2025 final (18 pages)
ANNEX to the White Paper on the future of Europe; Brussels, 1.3.2017 COM(2017) 2025 final ANNEX 1
ANNEX to the White Paper on the future of Europe; Brussels, 1.3.2017 COM(2017) 2025 final ANNEX 2
Two weeks later, as Juncker said, tomorrow on Wednesday morning 15 March 2017, the European Parliament has a new opportunity to discuss the actions of the European Council and the upcoming Rome declaration with the re-appointed EUCO president Donald Tusk, the Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, Malta’s deputy prime minister Louis Grech and Italy’s prime minister Paolo Gentiloni.
Even if completely ignored by the EU27 heads of state or government, the European Parliament comes prepared, most recently through the plenary debate on the White Paper, as well as three recent initiatives showing a lot more spunk, and aiming at a more effective and democratic European Union:
European Parliament resolution of 16 February 2017 on improving the functioning of the European Union building on the potential of the Lisbon Treaty P8_TA-PROV(2017)0049 (Bresso and Brok report)
European Parliament resolution of 16 February 2017 on possible evolutions of and adjustments to the current institutional set-up of the European Union P8_TA-PROV(2017)0048 (Verhofstadt report)
European Parliament resolution of 16 February 2017 on budgetary capacity for the euro area P8_TA-PROV(2017)0050 (Böge and Berès report)
Tune in for any signs to end the era of stagnation from the EU27.