»Those who don’t know how to seek compromise, are not suitable for a democracy and not capable for Europe« is only one of many statements that Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, made yesterday morning is his annual address to the European Parliament, the State of the European Union, where he presented his vision for Europe.
This year, things were different. Juncker decided to dedicate the biggest part of his speech to his vision of the future of the European Union. As a true European, Juncker followed the ideas of Europe’s founding fathers and set out a number of ambitious, yet practical and realistic goals for a closer cooperation among the European Union Member States. He spoke of common values (freedom, equality and rule of law), which he transformed into concrete examples. His discourse contained a strong European note of a project that is never finished and that we can build upon, change and adapt any time we are wish. A sole President for the Union, a Minister for economy and finance, pan-European lists for European Parliament elections, a common army and a mechanism for exchange of data among secret services are only some of key elements related to Juncker’s vision for Europe in 2025.
The White Paper on the Future of the Union prompted many new formats that the European institutions as well as national politicians have been testing in the past years, to bring the discussion on the future of the European Union closer its citizens. In this view, Commissioners like Violeta Bulc, have been undertaking a number of Citizens Dialogues, the French President Emmanuel Macron announced a similar setting and we are eagerly awaiting the annual State of the European Union address by the European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, who will this week present his own vision for Europe.
Last week, Slovenia hosted the first Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, who held a dialogue with citizens at the national television. The debate was broadcast live during prime time on TV, as well as radio and social media of the European Commission’s representation in Slovenia. A day later, discussions about the European Union took place in the frame of the Bled Strategic Forum. However, when there is talk in Slovenia about the future of the European Union, more often than not, we face a very limited debate with short-term visions presented by citizens as well as those who represent our country in Brussels and take decisions on its behalf. Long-term scenarios are being debated in Brussels, while Slovenia is thinking about more cohesion funds and how to deal with our neighbours in the next few years. This was again demonstrated last week in the studio of the Slovenian national broadcaster, as well as in the big hall in Bled.
What is The Ljubljana Initiative? What is written in this 70 pages document, produced by some prominent Slovenian politicians and political analysts, which should pompously mark the new era in European integration and give an incentive to Slovenes and Europeans to become more European?
The Ljubljana Initiative might have given Slovenes a sense of belonging to the European family and a sense of shared responsibility for the European project. However, this part of the President of the Republic’s political campaign is (unfortunately) very far from a potential new Treaty on the Constitution for the European Union.
Everything was done by the book. A presentation was made, press releases published, statements delivered and a number of articles were published in many Slovenian media outlets. The Ljubljana Initiative is described as many things: a part of a political campaign, a document that would become a new Constitution for Europe, something that materialized during a walk of a small number of Slovene intellectuals, an initiative supported by the President of the Republic himself. In the midst of numerous political analyses of the Ljubljana Initiative, all of which mainly looked at its impact on internal policies of Slovenia, EU360 prepared our own opinion from the viewpoint of Europe.
It was difficult to write this post. In the last few days I am under influence of different and contradictory feelings. Anger, fear, impotence, gratitude, concern, hatred, intolerance. All of them are present. Anger due to the fact that such an event occurred and that the authorities haven’t prevent it. Fear, that such an event will happen again. Impotence, as I know that I can’t do anything to prevent such things. Gratitude, that I am currently not in Brussels and I am safe and gratitude towards those who thought about me and called or sent me a message to see if I am all right. Hatred towards those who did this. And finally I am also intolerant towards those who permit such facts.
Last weekend an article on the website of the Slovenian daily business newspaper Finance got my attention. The article summarised a public opinion poll made by Lord Ashcroft Polls about the feeling of Europeans about the UK and Brexit. Besides checking the feeling about Brexit (60% of the interviewed said they want the UK to remain in the EU, while only 10% would like to see the country out), the poll explored which are the EU’s favourite countries and what Europeans most like and dislike of the EU. The results for Slovenia are not a surprise and they show that Slovenians don’t know how the EU works. They also point out that they suffer from a problem common to other Europeans – we want only the benefits the EU brings, while we want the obligations to be carried by others.
The last EU summit showed what is the biggest problem of EU countries. Prioritising. Instead of talking about really important things most of the summit and its “extra time” were devoted to a secondary problem. Yes, you read it right. The question of the UK staying or not in the EU is currently of secondary importance. The existence of the EU will not depend of the British staying or leaving but it depends on the (common) solution to the refugee crisis and its causes in Syria, the Middle East and Africa.
With Tuesday’s official handover ceremony, Ljubljana took from Bristol the title of European Green Capital for 2016. The title is awarded by the European Commission since 2010 to cities that are committed to sustainable development and that are improving the urban environment. Ljubljana will therefore join six other cities that during their “mandate” improved environmental standards and contributed to the promotion and the sharing of good environmental practices.
After David’s wish list from last November we got Donald’s answer. On Tuesday, the president of the European Council sent to the presidents of EU governments the draft of the agreement that would prevent the leaving of the UK from the EU. The letter, accompanied by the draft decision to be adopted by the European Council, represents the basis for the debate during the next EU Summit scheduled for the next 18th and 19th February in Brussels. Similarly to Cameron’s requests, the answer too is divided into four “baskets”.
Schengen is (clinically) dead. Donald Tusk last week said, that Member States have only two more months to save the internal borderless area. To be honest, Schengen started to implode when its first country reestablished the border checks on the internal borders last autumn. At that time it was said that the checks will be only temporary. However, Monday’s informal meeting of the interior ministers in Amsterdam showed that this won’t be the case. Some countries requested the Commission to prepare th basis for the use of article 26 of the Schengen treaty, that allows the prolongation of the checks up to two years. The first domino is therefore falling. If it will really finally fall, there will only be the question of time when the second will follow.
Il m’a été aimablement proposé de vous soumettre une analyse relative au vote du dimanche 6 décembre dernier, premier tour des élections régionales françaises, que la presse décrit assez unanimement de « choc électoral » du fait des résultats a priori exceptionnels du Front National aujourd’hui premier parti de France.