Implementation of the Lisbon Treaty: a question of leadership?

Hav­ing orig­i­nal­ly been one of the sup­port­ers of the cre­ation of this new post of a Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil in order to give the Euro­pean Union (EU) a face and the work of the Euro­pean Coun­cil more con­ti­nu­ity and coher­ence, the Ger­man gov­ern­ment in the end only sup­port­ed a rather unim­pres­sive politi­cian to ful­fil this impor­tant and demand­ing posi­tion. Thus, it became clear that the Merkel gov­ern­ment did not want to install a per­son­al­i­ty ambi­tious to dom­i­nate EU pol­i­cy mak­ing and able to attract a lot of media atten­tion. It was rather a calm per­son­al­i­ty, pos­si­bly not being a “media rival” and polit­i­cal com­peti­tor to the heads of state and gov­ern­ment in the Euro­pean Coun­cil, who was final­ly pre­ferred.

The Ger­man media explained the fol­low­ing advan­tages of Her­man Van Rompuy’s calm char­ac­ter: as he has no desire for media atten­tion, he could be able to mod­er­ate behind the scenes and thus more eas­i­ly bal­ance the dif­fer­ent inter­ests of EU mem­ber states.11Cf. Bil­ger, Oliv­er: EU-Rat­präsi­dent, Schöngeist mit Schlagkraft, Süd­deutsche Zeitung, 21 Novem­ber 2009. Not least jour­nal­ists praised the com­pro­mise between France and Ger­many that he was able to push for­ward in the con­text of the Greek cri­sis in Feb­ru­ary 2010.22Cf. e.g. Stabenow, Michael: EU-Rat­spräsi­dent Van Rompuy: Anlauf­stelle für Merkel und Sarkozy, Frank­furter All­ge­meine Zeitung, 9 April 2010. One proof that Angela Merkel and Nico­las Sarkozy appre­ci­at­ed these mod­er­at­ing qual­i­ties could be the fact that they agreed to install a work­ing group under Van Rompuy’s chair that is sup­posed to eval­u­ate the lessons learned from the finan­cial cri­sis by the end of 2010.

In gen­er­al, Ger­man polit­i­cal actors attribute Van Rompuy the role of a facil­i­ta­tor of nego­ti­a­tions. They agree to his main func­tion of chair­ing and prepar­ing the Euro­pean Coun­cil meet­ings and bro­ker­ing mem­ber states’ inter­ests in advance. Sim­i­lar to oth­er EU Heads of State, Merkel (Chris­t­ian Demo­c­ra­t­ic Union – CDU) seems to enjoy the grow­ing influ­ence of this new Euro­pean insti­tu­tion, which is in part due to Van Rompuy’s pro­mo­tion of the Euro­pean Coun­cil nego­ti­a­tions. At the same time, the polit­i­cal weight of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and the Coun­cil of Min­is­ters is, at least from an out­side point of view, dimin­ish­ing. With regards to Ger­man EU pol­i­tics, the more active role of the Euro­pean Coun­cil in the Euro­pean cri­sis man­age­ment and the exclu­sion of the for­eign min­is­ters from Euro­pean Coun­cil meet­ings caused a pow­er shift in the Ger­man for­eign affairs sys­tem from the Ger­man Fed­er­al For­eign Min­istry and its Min­is­ter Gui­do West­er­welle (Free Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty – FDP), who is no longer an offi­cial mem­ber of the Euro­pean Coun­cil accord­ing to the Lis­bon Treaty, to the Ger­man Fed­er­al Chan­cellery and thus to Chan­cel­lor Merkel her­self.

Where­as the Ger­man polit­i­cal actors did not con­cen­trate on a debate about the new post of a Euro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent nor on Van Rompuy him­self, researchers strong­ly focused on the ques­tion of the unclear future insti­tu­tion­al bal­ance between the sev­er­al EU heads that could lead rather to con­flicts and dis­con­ti­nu­ity instead of the orig­i­nal­ly intend­ed clar­i­ty via the instal­la­tion of a sta­ble EU pres­i­dent. Thus, con­flicts on the ques­tion of com­pe­tence could arise: First­ly, between the rotat­ing EU pres­i­den­cy and the sta­ble Euro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent; sec­ond­ly, between José Manuel Bar­roso, Cather­ine Ash­ton and Van Rompuy regard­ing the exter­nal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Union; third­ly, between the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent and the Euro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent in the con­text of for­mu­lat­ing new ideas on the under­ly­ing cur­rents for the EU’s future devel­op­ment.33Cf. Kietz, Daniela/Von Ondarza, Nico­lai: Willkom­men in der Liss­abon­ner Wirk­lichkeit, SWP Aktuell 29, March 2010, p. 2–3. Any changes of the role of the rotat­ing coun­cil pres­i­den­cy are linked to the respec­tive EU mem­ber state and its polit­i­cal lead­ers who could either refrain from tak­ing a lead­er­ship role and leave the mod­er­a­tion floor main­ly to Van Rompuy, Ash­ton and Bar­roso or behave in con­cur­rence to these EU per­son­al­i­ties.

Due to her polit­i­cal affil­i­a­tion, Cather­ine Ash­ton aroused less crit­i­cism than Van Rompuy from Ger­man oppo­si­tion par­ty mem­bers. Nev­er­the­less, Social Democ­rats (SPD) and Greens, as well as the left-wing par­ty DIE LINKE, ques­tioned whether she would be able to ful­fil the high vari­ety of chal­leng­ing tasks that lie ahead. DIE LINKE main­ly demand­ed more involve­ment of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment in Euro­pean for­eign affairs.44Cf. Lös­ing, Sabine: Tab­u­la Rasa: Ash­ton nur ein leeres Blatt Papi­er?, press state­ment, 2 Decem­ber 2009. In fact, incor­po­rat­ing the posi­tion of for­mer­ly two posts, High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive and For­eign Affairs Com­mis­sion­er, or even three (if one also con­sid­ers her future chair­ing of the For­eign Affairs Coun­cil, for­mer­ly presided by the rotat­ing EU pres­i­den­cy) proves to be dif­fi­cult. Con­se­quent­ly, Ger­man Mem­ber of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment (MEP) Elmar Brok expressed his fears that Ash­ton could end up not suf­fi­cient­ly sup­port­ing Euro­pean com­mon inter­ests, but instead get­ting stuck in Coun­cil mat­ters and thus get­ting lost between var­i­ous nation­al inter­ests and per­son­al­i­ties.55Cf. Busse, Nico­laus: EU Außen­beauf­tragte, Sagen Sie mir die Rich­tung, Frank­furter All­ge­meine Zeitung, 2 Decem­ber 2009. Fur­ther­more, not only could the EU’s nation­al for­eign min­is­ters get into a rival­ry with Ash­ton, but Bar­roso could also become an awk­ward part­ner when it comes to the EU’s exter­nal rep­re­sen­ta­tion, as the Ger­man dai­ly Süd­deutsche Zeitung under­lines.66Cf. Win­ter, M.: Ein­same Kämpferin in Brüs­sel, Süd­deutsche Zeitung, 3 March 2010. Being insti­tu­tion­al­ly placed between the inter­gov­ern­men­tal Coun­cil and the supra­na­tion­al Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, Ash­ton might face ongo­ing ten­sions between the com­pe­tences of these two bod­ies in Euro­pean for­eign affairs that she would have to bal­ance. Ini­tial prove for this were the dis­cus­sions about the com­pe­tences of the Euro­pean Exter­nal Action Ser­vice (EEAS) that would con­flict with the Commission’s for­mer­ly exclu­sive fields, such as devel­op­ment pol­i­cy.

The EEAS has already been dis­cussed among Ger­man actors in the con­text of the Lis­bon Treaty delib­er­a­tion. Then, in the con­text of Ashton’s “Pro­pos­al for a Coun­cil Deci­sion estab­lish­ing the organ­i­sa­tion and func­tion­ing of the Euro­pean Exter­nal Action Ser­vice”, the ques­tions about the EEAS’s insti­tu­tion­al set-up and about the polit­i­cal con­trol of this new diplo­mat­ic ser­vice became sub­ject to debate again.

West­er­welle crit­i­cised Ashton’s pro­pos­al for being unclear con­cern­ing the divi­sion of com­pe­tences and saw a need for fur­ther nego­ti­a­tions. He empha­sized the neces­si­ty of hav­ing an insti­tu­tion that would not only estab­lish a dou­ble struc­ture, but that should be able to speak with one voice for the Euro­pean Union (EU).77Cf. Han­dels­blatt: Stre­it um EU-Außen­poli­tik eskaliert, 31 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.handelsblatt.com (last access: 15 July 2010). Fur­ther­more, mem­bers of the Ger­man gov­ern­ment empha­sised their will to rein­force the use of the Ger­man lan­guage on equal foot­ing with Eng­lish and French as offi­cial lan­guages in the con­text of the EEAS’s work and the recruit­ment cri­te­ria for the diplo­mat­ic per­son­al of the EEAS.

In gen­er­al, the Ger­man par­ties fol­lowed the posi­tion of their Euro­pean com­ple­ments. Accord­ing­ly, the par­lia­ment fac­tion of the con­ser­v­a­tive CDU/CSU (Chris­t­ian Demo­c­ra­t­ic Union/Christian Social Union) argued sim­i­lar­ly to Elmar Brok, Ger­man mem­ber and rap­por­teur of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment for the EEAS and spokesman of the Euro­pean Peo­ples Par­ty (EPP), that the EEAS should be close­ly linked to the com­mu­ni­tar­i­an Euro­pean Com­mis­sion instead of the Coun­cil in order to ensure a more effec­tive con­trol by the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. The SPD basi­cal­ly shared this view and empha­sised that the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment should exer­cise more bud­getary con­trol over the EEAS.88SPD AG Angele­gen­heit­en der Europäis­chen Union: Europas Außen­poli­tik demokratisch mit­gestal­ten, press state­ment 867, 22 June 2010. MEP Franziska Brant­ner and Ger­man Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment Manuel Sar­razin (both Greens) were dis­ap­point­ed by the pro­pos­al because it would cre­ate dou­ble struc­tures in the field of devel­op­ment coop­er­a­tion, thus hin­der­ing an effi­cient and coher­ent act­ing in exter­nal cri­sis man­age­ment. A clos­er insti­tu­tion­al link of the EEAS to the Coun­cil of Min­is­ters or a more inde­pen­dent diplo­mat­ic ser­vice did not find any sup­port in the debate, though. A more crit­i­cal opin­ion on the EEAS pro­pos­al was held by DIE LINKE under­lin­ing that the Bun­destag would run the dan­ger of los­ing its com­pe­tence and con­trol of Ger­man mil­i­tary mis­sions. Jür­gen Wag­n­er, work­ing for Infor­ma­tion­sstelle Mil­i­tarisierung (IMI), shared this crit­i­cism and stat­ed that Ashton’s pro­pos­al would fail to estab­lish mech­a­nisms of par­lia­men­tar­i­an con­trol. More­over, his organ­i­sa­tion holds the opin­ion that, by inte­grat­ing all mil­i­tary struc­tures into the EEAS, the insti­tu­tion could be dom­i­nat­ed by secu­ri­ty pol­i­cy inter­ests. Oth­er deci­sive ele­ments, such as devel­op­ment pol­i­cy or the pro­mo­tion of human rights, might thus become sub­or­di­nat­ed.99Cf. IMI-Stand­punkt 2010/008: Ein Mil­itärisch-Auswär­tiger Dienst für Europas impe­ri­ale Macht­poli­tik, 29 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.imi-online.de/2002.php?id=2090 (last access: 15 July 2010). In gen­er­al, the idea of inte­grat­ing the devel­op­ment pol­i­cy sec­tor in the EEAS’s struc­tures aroused spe­cial atten­tion in Ger­many and was crit­i­cised in the last months by sev­er­al Ger­man non-gov­ern­men­tal organ­i­sa­tions (NGOs) and think tanks. For instance, VENRO (Ver­band Entwick­lungspoli­tik deutsch­er Nichtregierung­sor­gan­i­sa­tio­nen), a Ger­man asso­ci­a­tion that rep­re­sents about 120 NGOs in the devel­op­ment coop­er­a­tion sec­tor, argued that Euro­pean devel­op­ment pol­i­cy would need an inde­pen­dent insti­tu­tion­al struc­ture that would be able to artic­u­late its inter­ests inde­pen­dent­ly.1010Cf. VENRO: Entwick­lungspoli­tik muss eigen­ständig bleiben, 26 April 2010, avail­able at: http://www.venro.org (last access: 15 July 2010).

The pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion process that was opened by the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion regard­ing its pro­pos­al defin­ing the rules and pro­ce­dures for the Euro­pean Cit­i­zens’ Ini­tia­tive (ECI) was active­ly received by Ger­man polit­i­cal par­ties, the Par­lia­ment and non-gov­ern­men­tal organ­i­sa­tions (NGOs). Some of the Ger­man Land­tage, the region­al par­lia­ments, adopt­ed res­o­lu­tions on the ECI as well and for­ward­ed them to the Com­mis­sion.1111See inter alia the res­o­lu­tion of the Bavar­i­an Land­tag, avail­able at: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/secretariat_general/citizens_initiative/docs/bayern_landtag_de.pdf (last access: 15 July 2010); and the Res­o­lu­tion of Land­tag of Sax­ony-Anhalts, avail­able at: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/secretariat_general/citizens_initiative/docs/lt_sachsen_anhalt_de.pdf (last access: 15 July 2010).

The major­i­ty of Ger­man polit­i­cal par­ties shared the same expec­ta­tions for the ECI. It was regard­ed as being a new instru­ment for the par­tic­i­pa­tion of EU-cit­i­zens in Euro­pean pol­i­cy-mak­ing and an oppor­tu­ni­ty to reduce the dis­tance between the Union and its cit­i­zens. More­over, the ECI was expect­ed to con­tribute to the pro­mo­tion of transna­tion­al debates on Euro­pean issues. Only DIE LINKE crit­i­cised, with ref­er­ence to Arti­cle 11 (4) Treaty on Euro­pean Union, that the planned ECI reg­u­la­tions would not aim at a direct par­tic­i­pa­tion of EU cit­i­zens in EU pol­i­tics and thus no con­tri­bu­tion to over­com­ing the EU’s demo­c­ra­t­ic deficit was under­tak­en. The gov­ern­ing FDP, as well as the oppo­si­tion SPD and Greens, saw the need to facil­i­tate some of the cri­te­ria planned for a suc­cess­ful ECI, espe­cial­ly con­cern­ing the min­i­mum num­ber of coun­tries rep­re­sent­ed by the ECI and the quo­rum for each mem­ber state. In addi­tion, the Greens called for the right for ini­tia­tors of an ECI to chal­lenge deci­sions by the Com­mis­sion, the right of pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions, the intro­duc­tion of data pro­tec­tion mea­sures and the oblig­a­tion for ini­tia­tors of ECIs to reveal their finan­cial sources. On the con­trary, the par­ty of Chan­cel­lor Merkel, the CDU, sup­port­ed the Commission’s pro­pos­al and regard­ed an inter­ven­tion of the Bun­destag as unnec­es­sary.1212For the tran­script of the debate on the Euro­pean Commission’s Pro­pos­al for a reg­u­la­tion of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and the Coun­cil on the Euro­peans Cit­i­zens’ Ini­tia­tive in the Ger­man Bun­destag on 20 May 2010 see Doc­u­ment num­ber 17/43, avail­able at: http://dipbt.bundestag.de/dip21/btp/17/17043.pdf, as well as the speech­es of Thomas Dör­flinger, Karl Holmeier, Michael Roth, Dr. Ste­fan Rup­pert, Dr. Dieter Dehm and Manuel Sar­razin.

Ger­man NGOs were scep­ti­cal towards the Commission’s pro­pos­al: For instance, the NGOs Mehr Demokratie e.V.,1313Cf. Mehr Demokratie e.V.: Stel­lung­nahme zum Vorschlag der EU-Kom­mis­sion für eine Verord­nung des Europäis­chen Par­la­ments und des Rates über die Bürg­erini­tia­tive vom 31.3.2010 (Stand 7.5.2010), avail­able at: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/secretariat_general/citizens_initiative/docs/mehr_demokratie_de.pdf (last access: 15 July 2010). the Young Euro­pean Move­ment1414Cf. Junge Europäis­che Bewe­gung: Stel­lung­nahme der Jun­gen Europäis­chen Bewe­gung Berlin-Bran­den­burg e.V. zum Verord­nungsvorschlag der Europäis­chen Kom­mis­sion über die Europäis­che Bürg­erini­tia­tive, 5 April 2010, avail­able at: http://jeb-bb.de/fileadmin/files_jef-d-bb/2010/EBI/100405_Stellungnahme_der_JEB_zur_EBI-VO.pdf (last access: 15 July 2010). and Green­peace Deutsch­land crit­i­cised the for­mal cri­te­ria of putting for­ward an ini­tia­tive as being too dif­fi­cult to reach. The idea of using the iden­ti­ty card num­ber or social secu­ri­ty card num­ber as a mea­sure for ver­i­fi­ca­tion of votes is reject­ed. In sum, the men­tioned NGOs shared the con­cern that the ECI runs dan­ger to become an emp­ty shell that would be unable to ful­fil the high expec­ta­tions con­nect­ed to it.1515Cf. Mehr Demokratie e.V.: NGOs fordern Nachbesserun­gen bei der Europäis­chen Bürg­erini­tia­tive (EBI), 11 May 2010, avail­able at: http://www.mehr-demokratie.de/752.html?&tx_ttnews[backPid]=276&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=7274&cHash=08d16dcf7a40c6f8ca2462d38fcae10a (last access: 15 July 2010).

    Footnotes

  • 1Cf. Bil­ger, Oliv­er: EU-Rat­präsi­dent, Schöngeist mit Schlagkraft, Süd­deutsche Zeitung, 21 Novem­ber 2009.
  • 2Cf. e.g. Stabenow, Michael: EU-Rat­spräsi­dent Van Rompuy: Anlauf­stelle für Merkel und Sarkozy, Frank­furter All­ge­meine Zeitung, 9 April 2010.
  • 3Cf. Kietz, Daniela/Von Ondarza, Nico­lai: Willkom­men in der Liss­abon­ner Wirk­lichkeit, SWP Aktuell 29, March 2010, p. 2–3.
  • 4Cf. Lös­ing, Sabine: Tab­u­la Rasa: Ash­ton nur ein leeres Blatt Papi­er?, press state­ment, 2 Decem­ber 2009.
  • 5Cf. Busse, Nico­laus: EU Außen­beauf­tragte, Sagen Sie mir die Rich­tung, Frank­furter All­ge­meine Zeitung, 2 Decem­ber 2009.
  • 6Cf. Win­ter, M.: Ein­same Kämpferin in Brüs­sel, Süd­deutsche Zeitung, 3 March 2010.
  • 7Cf. Han­dels­blatt: Stre­it um EU-Außen­poli­tik eskaliert, 31 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.handelsblatt.com (last access: 15 July 2010).
  • 8SPD AG Angele­gen­heit­en der Europäis­chen Union: Europas Außen­poli­tik demokratisch mit­gestal­ten, press state­ment 867, 22 June 2010.
  • 9Cf. IMI-Stand­punkt 2010/008: Ein Mil­itärisch-Auswär­tiger Dienst für Europas impe­ri­ale Macht­poli­tik, 29 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.imi-online.de/2002.php?id=2090 (last access: 15 July 2010).
  • 10Cf. VENRO: Entwick­lungspoli­tik muss eigen­ständig bleiben, 26 April 2010, avail­able at: http://www.venro.org (last access: 15 July 2010).
  • 11See inter alia the res­o­lu­tion of the Bavar­i­an Land­tag, avail­able at: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/secretariat_general/citizens_initiative/docs/bayern_landtag_de.pdf (last access: 15 July 2010); and the Res­o­lu­tion of Land­tag of Sax­ony-Anhalts, avail­able at: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/secretariat_general/citizens_initiative/docs/lt_sachsen_anhalt_de.pdf (last access: 15 July 2010).
  • 12For the tran­script of the debate on the Euro­pean Commission’s Pro­pos­al for a reg­u­la­tion of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and the Coun­cil on the Euro­peans Cit­i­zens’ Ini­tia­tive in the Ger­man Bun­destag on 20 May 2010 see Doc­u­ment num­ber 17/43, avail­able at: http://dipbt.bundestag.de/dip21/btp/17/17043.pdf, as well as the speech­es of Thomas Dör­flinger, Karl Holmeier, Michael Roth, Dr. Ste­fan Rup­pert, Dr. Dieter Dehm and Manuel Sar­razin.
  • 13Cf. Mehr Demokratie e.V.: Stel­lung­nahme zum Vorschlag der EU-Kom­mis­sion für eine Verord­nung des Europäis­chen Par­la­ments und des Rates über die Bürg­erini­tia­tive vom 31.3.2010 (Stand 7.5.2010), avail­able at: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/secretariat_general/citizens_initiative/docs/mehr_demokratie_de.pdf (last access: 15 July 2010).
  • 14Cf. Junge Europäis­che Bewe­gung: Stel­lung­nahme der Jun­gen Europäis­chen Bewe­gung Berlin-Bran­den­burg e.V. zum Verord­nungsvorschlag der Europäis­chen Kom­mis­sion über die Europäis­che Bürg­erini­tia­tive, 5 April 2010, avail­able at: http://jeb-bb.de/fileadmin/files_jef-d-bb/2010/EBI/100405_Stellungnahme_der_JEB_zur_EBI-VO.pdf (last access: 15 July 2010).
  • 15Cf. Mehr Demokratie e.V.: NGOs fordern Nachbesserun­gen bei der Europäis­chen Bürg­erini­tia­tive (EBI), 11 May 2010, avail­able at: http://www.mehr-demokratie.de/752.html?&tx_ttnews[backPid]=276&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=7274&cHash=08d16dcf7a40c6f8ca2462d38fcae10a (last access: 15 July 2010).

The reports focus on a report­ing peri­od from Decem­ber 2009 until May 2010. This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March and April 2010. Most of the 31 reports were deliv­ered in May 2010.

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained there­in.