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EU needs a permanent president

Benefits and problems from the EU membership.

EU needs a permanent president

Postby Gasman » Fri Dec 24, 2010 7:30 pm

Isn’t it time for the European Union to have a permanent president – as foreseen under its Lisbon treaty? The rotating presidency, under which each country, big or small, puts on its make-up and appears on stage for six months before making way for the next act, appears anachronistic.

The EU has 27 member-states. The number may rise to more than 30 in the next decade. Unless the set-up is changed, the EU risks making itself look foolish in the eyes of the world.

Of the main European powers, France, which ran an energetic and efficient presidency from July to December, will not be back in the job until 2022 at the earliest. The UK, which held the presidency in 2005, must wait until 2017. Germany, which ran a good presidency in 2007, will get its next opportunity, if it is lucky, in 2021.

Meanwhile, the presidency will be held by minnows such as Cyprus in 2012, Latvia in 2015 and Malta in 2016. An attractive feature of the EU is that its structures produce a balance of power among big, medium-sized and small countries. At first glance, the EU looks like a sort of modern Holy Roman Empire, with its patchwork of big and small states. But even the Holy Roman Empire did not change emperors every six months.

“This rotating presidency really is ridiculous,” says Glenis Willmott, leader of the UK Labour party in the European parliament.

“One presidency comes to the parliament and sets out its agenda but takes three months to get going. Then, three months later, another presidency comes along, and its agenda is entirely different.”

When Slovenia held the presidency from January to June 2008, it emphasised the EU’s relations with countries which, like itself, had once formed part of communist Yugoslavia.

When France took over, it switched the focus away from south-eastern Europe and trumpeted its own project, the Union for the Mediterranean, which involves the EU’s Middle Eastern and north African neighbours.

Now it is the Czech Republic’s turn, with an initiative called the Eastern Partnership, which is designed to build closer ties with six former Soviet states situated between Russia and the EU’s eastern frontier. Come July 1, Sweden will be in charge, and guess what? We will receive something called the Baltic Sea Strategy.

All this could be generously interpreted as a tribute to Europe’s diversity, were it not for the fact that the Czech presidency, though not even half-finished, has exposed the failings of the system. A medium-sized, inexperienced country is holding the presidency at a time when the EU faces immense challenges in economic policy and foreign affairs.

The Czech presidency’s handling of the Gaza conflict in January was such a mess that the EU’s Middle East diplomacy was in effect taken over by France, Germany and the UK. The EU’s response to the financial crisis and recession was derailed for a while by an unseemly dispute between the Czech Republic and France over the European car industry and protectionism.

EU diplomats blame some of the trouble on the Czechs, who are said to struggle with a lack of institutional resources; deliver documents for meetings too late; and be poor at forward planning. Still, the Czechs win praise for speaking out in support of the EU’s single market and against economic nationalism. Mirek Topolanek, Czech prime minister, had a wobbly start but has performed better and better as the Czech presidency has progressed.

Nonetheless, the lesson is that the sooner the EU has a full-time president, the better. If Irish voters approve the Lisbon treaty in a referendum expected in October, the new post will be created. The appointee will serve a two-and-a-half year term, renewable once. The EU could have its first president as early as January.

But the job won’t be worth the paper it’s written on if, as some smaller countries want, its occupant sticks to administrative duties, preparing EU summits and so on. It needs to be held by someone who commands respect among the member-states and on the wider world stage. And it would be a real coup if the first president was a woman and came from the newly democratic eastern half of Europe.

Who better than Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor?
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Postby Get Real! » Fri Dec 24, 2010 7:57 pm

How interesting… fartbrains saw the word “minnows” and had a premature ejaculation all the way to a dedicated thread!

You silly old cow! :roll:
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Postby lola-tulip » Fri Dec 24, 2010 8:19 pm

It would be honest to state this article has been around for nearly two years and the idea has not caught on. Are we re-promoting it?


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Published: March 19 2009 17:35 | Last updated: March 19 2009 17:35
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Postby DT. » Sat Dec 25, 2010 12:00 am

Get Real! wrote:How interesting… fartbrains saw the word “minnows” and had a premature ejaculation all the way to a dedicated thread!

You silly old cow! :roll:


You idiot! Can't you see that some geezer from the uk's labour party (one of the most dynamic and forward looking political institutions of Europe) Glenn Wilmott is saying all this? :lol: :lol:

When Glenn speaks Europe stands to attention.

I would however suggest that the UK in all its paranoia and inability to belong to the EU should never be allowed to host the Presidency due to its obvious objective of sabotaging the union.

I've written to Kassoulides who is in the leadership of the EPP (a leading power in the Europen Parliament) so that he may have a think about it. :D

Come to think of it, I might even write to Takis Hadjigeorgiou who is vice president of the European Left.
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Postby Gasman » Sat Dec 25, 2010 4:07 am

When the Council was established, its work was minimal and the presidency rotated between each of the then-six members every six months. However as the work load of the Council grew and the membership increased, the lack of coordination between each successive six month presidency hindered the development of long-term priorities for the EU.

In order to rectify the situation, the idea of trio presidencies were put forward where groups of three successive presidencies cooperated on a common political program. This was implemented in 2007 and formally laid down in the EU treaties in 2009 via the Treaty of Lisbon.

The Treaty of Lisbon also reduced the importance of the Presidency significantly by officially separating the European Council (EU heads of state or government) from the Council of the European Union, thus terminating the capacity of the head of state or government of the member state holding the Presidency to be President of the European Council. Simultaneously it split the foreign affairs Council configuration from the General Affairs configuration and made the High Representative the chairman rather than the foreign minister of the Presidency state.

On top of the intended downgrading of the rotating Council presidency, the presidency has become even less influential in practice than planned. The High Representative has been taking on roles previously guarded by the presidency country's foreign minister and the European Council president has begun acting on finance policy; the most important policy area left to the rotating presidency. It is expected that the European Council president would be strengthened further when Belgium holds the rotating Presidency. There was some previous opposition to downgrading the rotating presidency too much with Sweden claiming it would disengage member states from feeling actively engaged in running the EU, especially smaller states.
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Postby Gasman » Sat Dec 25, 2010 4:10 am

The burdens of the rotating presidency include:

1. lack of administrative capacities and experience, especially for small and new member states; the concept of trio/troika has been introduced to enable member states to share experiences and ensure coherence on a 18-months base;
2. expenses in time and money, needed to support the administrative machine;
3. not being able to push through their own interests, as the role of Council Presidency is seen as an impartial instance; member states trying to push for initiatives of their own national interest are likely to see them failing in the medium run (e.g. the French 2008 Presidency and the Mediterranean Union project), as they need consensus and do not have enough time to reach it. This element is particularly substantial: holding the presidency may, on balance, be a disadvantage for member states.


As most seem to be of the opinion that the government of Cyprus is ineffective and the president even worse, why the excitement about letting this band of buffoons loose on the world stage?
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Postby DT. » Sat Dec 25, 2010 8:53 am

Gasman wrote:The burdens of the rotating presidency include:

1. lack of administrative capacities and experience, especially for small and new member states; the concept of trio/troika has been introduced to enable member states to share experiences and ensure coherence on a 18-months base;
2. expenses in time and money, needed to support the administrative machine;
3. not being able to push through their own interests, as the role of Council Presidency is seen as an impartial instance; member states trying to push for initiatives of their own national interest are likely to see them failing in the medium run (e.g. the French 2008 Presidency and the Mediterranean Union project), as they need consensus and do not have enough time to reach it. This element is particularly substantial: holding the presidency may, on balance, be a disadvantage for member states.


As most seem to be of the opinion that the government of Cyprus is ineffective and the president even worse, why the excitement about letting this band of buffoons loose on the world stage?


Well you did it with Gordon Brown so that's pretty much a Carte Blanche for the rest of the world.
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Postby coredump » Mon Jan 17, 2011 2:55 am

Too bad Margaret Thatcher is too old.
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