Ugly. Is the only accurate term to describe the seemingly never-ending EU Summit. What should be a dignified negotiation between government leaders, showing courage, vision and responsibility at times of crisis, has descended into a bloody fight between a pack of hyenas. No-one comes out unscathed. And with every seven-yearly battle over the EU budget, distrust and hatred between Europeans deepen further.
While European government leaders are fighting like cats and dogs, our real adversaries are rubbing their hands with glee, while our citizens and our allies watch in despair.
The whole situation demonstrates one thing beyond any doubt: the intergovernmental system is dead. While intergovernmental decision making, with national vetoes, may have served nicely for a small European economic community in the world of the fifties, it is unworkable for the European Union facing the complex challenges of today’s world. It will be the nail in the coffin of the European Union.
It is not just the EU Budget and the recovery package government leaders are unable to agree on. Migration policies: stuck since 2016. Rule of law crisis in Hungary and Poland: a decade of inaction by government leaders. Tackling tax evasion: blocked forever by national vetoes. Thanks to the unanimity rule Europe is a geopolitical midget . Climate policies have advanced at snail pace, as governments protect national industries. A cartoon version of “national sovereignty” has prevented a real digital single market with European tech companies, so that we are at the mercy of the US, China and multinational tech giants. – the real threats to our sovereignty. Transparency regulation: stuck since 2011, anti-discrimination law blocked since 2008. Even against the evidently cross border pandemic, member states could hardly agree on a common response. While citizens expect the European Union to act, it is paralysed by national politics.
National vetoes do not protect the interests of anyone. They merely allow single countries to hold the entire European Union hostage. It may bring short-term electoral benefits to certain government leaders, but they do profound damage to the European Union as a whole. Like someone who is setting his own house on fire while he is inside. The use of vetoes leads only to Pyrrhic victories.
It seems not all government leaders have learned the lesson from the UK, and like David Cameron they believe it is possible to treat the European Union like an enemy, and at the same time keep the support of the people for the European project. Like his friend Cameron, Prime Minister Rutte is playing with fire, risking a Nexident. Support for the EU project is built on leadership and courage, not on rebates. But it would be too easy to portray Rutte as the villain in this play. Many political leaders are just as guilty of whipping up anger and using caricatures of the other, and only very few leaders have the courage to tell the truth about Europe.
In today’s world, only a strong and united Europe is able to secure our prosperity, security and freedom. We urgently need to transform the European Union into a fully-fledged political union that speaks with a single voice. A parliamentary democracy, where decisions are taken in public, with majority voting and in the interest of all Europeans. No more dogfights and horse trading, but transparent, democratic and effective decision making. In the interest of all Europeans and our common future.