The EU in 2010 – between excitement over the Lisbon Treaty and anxieties about the financial and economic crisis

The report­ing peri­od from Decem­ber 2009 until May 2010 has seen the con­sti­tu­tion­al cri­sis com­ing to an end – unlike the finan­cial and eco­nom­ic cri­sis, which, after ini­tial hopes that it would pass quick­ly, turned into a Euro and Euro­zone cri­sis instead. With the com­ing into force of the Lis­bon Treaty, ques­tions of its design and imple­men­ta­tion con­tin­ued to keep the sub­ject on the agen­da, how­ev­er. As the widen­ing of the EU is always being relat­ed to its deep­en­ing, fur­ther issues of salience were the Enlarge­ment and Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy as well as the cli­mate issue, espe­cial­ly dur­ing the cli­mate con­fer­ence in Copen­hagen in Decem­ber 2009.

In this first issue of the EU-27 Watch under col­lab­o­ra­tion of Cife and the IEP, all these issues are dealt with and a prospect for the sec­ond half of 2010 and the begin­ning of 2011 is giv­en, a time where the final­i­sa­tion of the post-Lis­bon reforms is to be expect­ed to include new oppor­tu­ni­ties but also uncertainties:

  • Imple­men­ta­tion of the Lis­bon Treaty;
  • Enlarge­ment and Neigh­bour­hood Policy;
  • Euro­pean eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy and the finan­cial and eco­nom­ic crisis;
  • Cli­mate and ener­gy pol­i­cy; and
  • Oth­er cur­rent issues and dis­cours­es in the report­ing countries.

As in pre­vi­ous issues of EU-27 Watch, the coun­try reports give a unique and up-to-date snap­shot of posi­tions and assess­ments of those top­ics in all 27 EU-mem­ber states as well as Croa­t­ia and Turkey. The EU-27 Watch includes Mace­do­nia and Ice­land for the first time, there­by cov­er­ing all 4 can­di­date countries.

When tak­ing a clos­er look at the 31 coun­try reports, some wide­spread con­sen­sus can be observed on cer­tain top­ics with het­ero­gene­ity on oth­ers. In addi­tion, region­al dif­fer­ences can also be observed.

The Implementation of the Lisbon Treaty: Assessment of the new posts, the European External Action Service and the European Citizens’ Initiative

On 1 Decem­ber 2009 the EU-reform end­ed with the enter­ing into force of the Lis­bon Treaty. How­ev­er, the new treaty pro­vi­sions still have to be imple­ment­ed. Some pro­ce­dures and con­di­tions have to be deter­mined. In oth­er cas­es, pro­ce­dures, pow­er rela­tions, and deci­sion-mak­ing mech­a­nisms will change due to the new pro­vi­sions. There­fore, con­trib­u­tors were asked to describe the assess­ment of new Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil, Her­man Van Rompuy, and the new High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Union for For­eign Affairs and Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy, Cather­ine Ash­ton, in their coun­try. In addi­tion, they were asked about the country’s per­cep­tion of the Euro­pean Exter­nal Action Ser­vice as well as pos­si­ble alter­na­tive struc­tures and about the expec­ta­tions con­cern­ing the pro­pos­al defin­ing the rules and pro­ce­dures for the Euro­pean Cit­i­zens’ Ini­tia­tive (ECI).

Over­all, the role of the new Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil is seen as that of a mod­er­a­tor or medi­a­tor. The assess­ment of this fact varies, how­ev­er; more mem­ber states see this role in a pos­i­tive light, many said it was too ear­ly to tell, and it is crit­i­cised by a small­er but also con­sid­er­able group. Crit­i­cism focus­es espe­cial­ly on the selec­tion process and Her­man Van Rompuy’s role dur­ing the eco­nom­ic cri­sis and par­tic­u­lar­ly the Greek cri­sis. Fear of a more inter­gov­ern­men­tal char­ac­ter of the EU has also been men­tioned more than once. Con­cern­ing the rotat­ing coun­cil pres­i­den­cy, there seems to be some unease relat­ing to changes in the divi­sion of labour between the Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil and the rotat­ing pres­i­den­cy and reduc­tions in its rel­e­vance. Small states under­line espe­cial­ly the impor­tance the six-month-long pres­i­den­cy has for them and main­tain that it has kept too many con­sid­er­able respon­si­bil­i­ties to be defunct.

Con­cern­ing the new High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Union for For­eign Affairs and Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy, the group of crit­ics is larg­er. While some mem­ber states give her the ben­e­fit of the doubt and the can­di­date coun­tries can only report lim­it­ed cov­er­age of the sub­ject, some of Cather­ine Ashton’s activ­i­ties in the first month of her hold­ing the post have been crit­i­cised, espe­cial­ly the uni­lat­er­al appoint­ing of Joao Vale de Almei­da as EU ambas­sador to the USA.

The Euro­pean Exter­nal Action Ser­vice is still in its for­ma­tion phase. There­fore, sug­ges­tions to its shap­ing pre­vail. Most often voiced is the neces­si­ty to clear­ly define its duties, to leave the appoint­ment of 1/3 of offi­cials to the mem­ber states and to keep a geo­graph­i­cal bal­ance while doing so. Fur­ther­more, there are still uncer­tain­ties to what degree the EEAS might replace nation­al diplo­mat­ic ser­vice and lure away some coun­tries’ best diplomats.

The expec­ta­tions for the Euro­pean Citizen’s Ini­tia­tive (ECI) are gen­er­al­ly pos­i­tive­ly assessed; the sub­ject has, how­ev­er, been less dis­cussed in the mem­ber states than oth­er changes being brought about by the Lis­bon Treaty.

The candidates and neighbours: Who is next in line?

The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion has giv­en its opin­ion on Iceland’s appli­ca­tion for EU-mem­ber­ship and a pos­i­tive deci­sion from the Coun­cil was tak­en in June 2010 grant­i­ng Ice­land can­di­date sta­tus. Croa­t­ia seems to have set­tled its bor­der dis­pute with Slove­nia. Against this back­ground we asked, which coun­tries are expect­ed to become mem­bers of the Euro­pean Union in the next enlarge­ment round by the author’s coun­try and which are not. In addi­tion, they were asked to describe how the East­ern Part­ner­ship and the Union for the Mediter­ranean, the last major projects deal­ing with the Euro­pean neigh­bour­hood, were assessed in their country.

There is a wide con­sen­sus that Croa­t­ia and Ice­land are next in line for enlarge­ment. When­ev­er dates are men­tioned, they assume that nego­ti­a­tions will be com­plet­ed by the end of 2010 or in 2011 with the pos­si­bil­i­ty for both coun­tries to join in 2012. Con­cern­ing the mem­ber­ship per­spec­tive of those coun­tries dis­cussed but not expect­ed to become mem­bers in the next enlarge­ment round, the pic­ture is a lot more diverse. In gen­er­al, all oth­er prospec­tive can­di­dates from the West­ern Balka­ns are men­tioned by one mem­ber state or the oth­er. In this con­text, the impor­tance of stick­ing to the Copen­hagen cri­te­ria is repeat­ed­ly men­tioned. A spe­cial point of con­tention through­out the reports is Turkey. While its acces­sion to the EU is men­tioned as an impor­tant if hard to sell goal, oth­ers see the process as long and slow or even object to Turk­ish EU mem­ber­ship. Con­crete rea­sons, e.g., that it is a non-Chris­t­ian coun­try, are, how­ev­er, rarely mentioned.

Both the East­ern Part­ner­ship and the Union for the Mediter­ranean are sub­jects of low salience in the pub­lic of the EU mem­ber states. When focus­ing on gov­ern­ments and sci­en­tif­ic cir­cles, how­ev­er, they are seen as impor­tant poli­cies for the sta­bil­i­ty and pros­per­i­ty in the region. The rel­e­vance seen of one or the oth­er depends most­ly on region­al pref­er­ences of the mem­ber states. The coun­tries more con­cerned with East­ern rela­tions fre­quent­ly men­tion Ukraine. In addi­tion, the impor­tance of good rela­tions with Rus­sia is men­tioned repeatedly.

Economic policy and financial crisis: closer cooperation needed! But how?

Dur­ing March 2010 the heads of state and gov­ern­ment agreed to finan­cial­ly sup­port Greece. On 11 April 2010 this agree­ment was expressed in fig­ures: the Euro­zone mem­ber states were will­ing to grant Greece loans of up to 30 bil­lion Euros com­ple­ment­ed by 15 bil­lion Euros from the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Funds (IMF). On 2 May 2010 the amount was increased to 110 bil­lion Euros. One week lat­er, on 9 May 2010, the heads of state and gov­ern­ment reached an agree­ment to grant finan­cial assis­tance to a mem­ber state “which is expe­ri­enc­ing, or is seri­ous­ly threat­ened with, a severe eco­nom­ic or finan­cial dis­tur­bance caused by excep­tion­al occur­rences beyond its con­trol”.11Coun­cil Reg­u­la­tion (EU) No 407/2010 of 11 May 2010 estab­lish­ing a Euro­pean finan­cial sta­bil­i­sa­tion mech­a­nism, in: Offi­cial Jour­nal of the Euro­pean Union, No. L 118 of 12. May 2010, pp. 1–4. This agree­ment con­tains three ele­ments: the Euro­pean Sta­bil­i­sa­tion Mech­a­nism which allows the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion to bor­row the nec­es­sary mon­ey to grant a cred­it to the respec­tive mem­ber state; a spe­cial pur­pose vehi­cle, which is allowed to bor­row up to 440 bil­lion Euros, guar­an­teed by the 16 mem­ber states of the Euro­zone, to sup­port mem­ber states finan­cial­ly; and an IMF cred­it worth half the amount of each cred­it this spe­cial pur­pose vehi­cle grants to mem­ber states. All in all the IMF will finan­cial­ly sup­port mem­ber states with a max­i­mum of 250 bil­lion Euros.

This finan­cial pack­age for Greece was broad­ly wel­comed all over Europe. But the argu­ments for sup­port­ing the pack­age dif­fer: on the one hand, it is argued, as the Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter put it, that the EU has no rea­son to exist if it is not will­ing to help a mem­ber of the Euro area afflict­ed by a severe eco­nom­ic cri­sis. Oth­ers saw the finance pack­age as a nec­es­sary evil. The only mem­ber state prob­a­bly not will­ing to grant bilat­er­al loans to Greece is Slo­va­kia. The idea of Greece leav­ing the Euro­zone was not seri­ous­ly dis­cussed in any mem­ber state.

Beside the gen­er­al sup­port of the pack­ages, the coun­try reports reflect a Euro­pean debate on whether the IMF should be involved or not. Some politi­cians expressed the opin­ion that the Euro­peans should have dealt with the prob­lem on their own. In oth­er states, some of them under IMF super­vi­sion on them­selves, the par­tic­i­pa­tion of the IMF was wel­comed. Accord­ing to the Bel­gian report, oth­er crit­i­cism can be summed up with the words of the for­mer Bel­gian Prime Min­is­ter, Guy Ver­hof­s­tadt, who crit­i­cised the slow deci­sion-mak­ing process and Euro­pean cacoph­o­ny, as well as the over­ly long dis­cus­sions on the way to solv­ing this problem.

The ques­tion, which lessons learned from the finan­cial cri­sis in the Euro­zone, is close­ly inter­weaved with the assess­ment of the idea of Euro­pean eco­nom­ic gov­er­nance. A major­i­ty of the coun­try reports name two aspects con­cern­ing this ques­tion: 1) the rules of the Growth and Sta­bil­i­ty Pact have to be more strict­ly enforced; and 2) clos­er eco­nom­ic coop­er­a­tion is need­ed. But here agree­ment seems to end. There was dis­agree­ment on whether new insti­tu­tions should be cre­at­ed and whether a new treaty reform is fea­si­ble. Anoth­er ques­tion on which opin­ion is split is the “Euro­pean Semes­ter”. While some wel­come the mon­i­tor­ing of nation­al bud­gets, this is regard­ed as a threat to nation­al sov­er­eign­ty in oth­er mem­ber states. Fur­ther­more, con­cerns on a Euro­pean tax pol­i­cy are expressed in Ire­land and Mal­ta, while Slove­nia is the only coun­try from which calls for a clos­er coor­di­na­tion of indi­rect tax­es are report­ed. A fear fre­quent­ly expressed is that increased eco­nom­ic coop­er­a­tion will fos­ter a “Europe of two speeds”, no dis­tinc­tion should be made between Euro­zone mem­ber states and mem­ber states not hav­ing intro­duced the Euro. One idea to avoid such a devel­op­ment is to give the non-Euro mem­ber states observ­er sta­tus in the Eurogroup.

What becomes appar­ent is that in none of the coun­tries a con­cept for clos­er eco­nom­ic coop­er­a­tion or the reform of the Growth and Sta­bil­i­ty Pact has yet been dis­cussed. Beside the gen­er­al agree­ment that some­thing has to be done, most con­cepts remain vague. The few con­crete ideas voiced are just bits and pieces. Anoth­er sub­ject not men­tioned is, sur­pris­ing­ly, the role the rat­ing agen­cies have played dur­ing the crisis.

While the new Europe 2020 Strat­e­gy is broad­ly wel­comed in gen­er­al, there is a great scep­ti­cism con­cern­ing the Strategy’s suc­cess, as the Lux­em­bour­gish report put it. The ques­tion of imple­men­ta­tion of the Europe 2020 Strat­e­gy seems to be the major con­cern fuelling this scep­ti­cism. That the new Strat­e­gy does address the prob­lem of the Lis­bon Strat­e­gy in this respect is the major point of crit­i­cism. In a more gen­er­al approach, the crit­i­cism is sum­marised in the French report by cit­ing Bruno Vev­er: “nev­er change a loos­ing strat­e­gy.” Fur­ther­more, depend­ing on the respec­tive nation­al inter­est, pol­i­cy fields are dis­cussed which should have been more stressed by the Strat­e­gy. Exam­ples are the Com­mon Agri­cul­tur­al Pol­i­cy, ener­gy pol­i­cy, green growth, and the fight against protectionism.

Climate and energy policy: best hope for the next negotiation round

In the field of Euro­pean cli­mate and ener­gy pol­i­cy, the Unit­ed Nations Cli­mate Change Con­fer­ence in Copen­hagen from 7 to 19 Decem­ber 2009 was the major event dur­ing the report­ing peri­od. Start­ing with the inter­nal nego­ti­a­tions and final agree­ment on the “ener­gy and cli­mate change pack­age” in late 2008 and ear­ly 2009, the Euro­pean Union was occu­pied with for­mu­lat­ing a nego­ti­at­ing posi­tion for the Copen­hagen con­fer­ence dur­ing 2009. This posi­tion was reached with the so called “20–20-20 objec­tives” offer­ing a uni­lat­er­al reduc­tion of green­house gas emis­sion by 20 per­cent until 2020 and the offer to increase the reduc­tion goal to 30 per­cent, if the oth­er “devel­oped coun­tries com­mit them­selves to com­pa­ra­ble emis­sion reduc­tions” and “devel­op­ing coun­tries con­tribute ade­quate­ly accord­ing to their respon­si­bil­i­ties and respec­tive capa­bil­i­ties.”22Coun­cil of the Euro­pean Union: Brus­sels Euro­pean Coun­cil 29/30 Octo­ber 2009. Pres­i­den­cy Con­clu­sions, Doc. 15265/1/09. Against this back­ground, the reports eval­u­ate the non-bind­ing Copen­hagen Accord final­ly agreed upon. The assess­ments of the Copen­hagen Accord range from dis­ap­point­ment, fail­ure, and dis­sat­is­fac­tion to describ­ing it as a missed oppor­tu­ni­ty. More pos­i­tive voic­es regard it as “mod­er­ate progress” or they are hope­ful that next time, in Can­cún at the end of 2010, a bet­ter agree­ment will be reached.

Among the 31 coun­try reports, a major­i­ty eval­u­ates the EU’s inter­nal cli­mate and ener­gy pol­i­cy pos­i­tive­ly. Just in a few of the mem­ber states the EU’s goals are regard­ed as being too ambi­tious or calls for more empha­sis on ener­gy pol­i­cy were heard. Among those sup­port­ing the cur­rent pol­i­cy, some do not see the neces­si­ty to increase Europe’s efforts in cli­mate pol­i­cy. They con­sid­er the so called “20–20-20 objec­tives” as a suf­fi­cient basis for the next nego­ti­a­tion round in the inter­na­tion­al are­na. Oth­ers, among them not just envi­ron­men­tal NGOs but also gov­ern­ments, point out that the EU must not lose its role as an inter­na­tion­al leader in cli­mate pol­i­cy and pledge for a more ambi­tious cli­mate pol­i­cy. A few coun­try reports do not dis­cuss the pol­i­cy itself as the prob­lem Europe will face dur­ing the next inter­na­tion­al nego­ti­a­tions. Instead, they argue, it is more impor­tant to over­come Europe’s inter­nal divi­sion and to find a coher­ent and con­sis­tent cli­mate policy.

There is a wide con­sen­sus that the Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change (UNFCCC) is the appro­pri­ate forum to tack­le cli­mate change, as it is a glob­al chal­lenge and there is no oth­er forum larg­er than the Unit­ed Nations. In Bel­gium the idea was pro­posed to sup­ple­ment the nego­ti­a­tions with­in in the UNFCCC with a bilat­er­al CO2 tax on imports from those coun­tries not will­ing to par­tic­i­pate in the UNFCCC. The only alter­na­tive to the UNFCCC men­tioned in the coun­try reports is the G8 respec­tive­ly the G20.

The financ­ing of mit­i­ga­tion and adap­ta­tion efforts in devel­op­ing coun­tries is broad­ly con­sid­ered as being nec­es­sary and use­ful. Most coun­tries are will­ing to par­tic­i­pate or have already com­mit­ted funds. In Roma­nia the idea is dis­cussed that the amount a state has to pay should be depen­dent on the emis­sions of the respec­tive coun­try. Con­cepts on the allo­ca­tion of these funds and the mon­i­tor­ing of the spend­ing do not seemed to be a top­ic dis­cussed at present in Europe. Con­tro­ver­sial­ly dis­cussed is the ques­tion where the funds should come from. Some crit­i­cise that exist­ing devel­op­ment aid funds are just declared as being funds for mit­i­ga­tion and adap­ta­tion efforts. Due to this rea­son, oth­ers ques­tion the pri­or­i­ty of mit­i­ga­tion and adap­ta­tion for devel­op­ing coun­tries in general.

Current issues: It’s the economy, stupid!

The cur­rent issues and dis­cours­es report­ed in chap­ter five reflect that there is no syn­chron­ic debate in all mem­ber states and can­di­date coun­tries on one issue not dealt with in chap­ters one to four. The cur­rent dis­cours­es in Europe cov­er a broad spec­trum of top­ics rang­ing from spring hunt­ing and genet­i­cal­ly mod­i­fied organ­isms to visa pol­i­cy, con­sti­tu­tion­al reforms, the involve­ment in Afghanistan, and immigration.

Mean­while, two issues are men­tioned more often than oth­ers: elec­tions and eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy. In a num­ber of Euro­pean coun­tries, the gov­ern­ments of dif­fer­ent lev­els of the polit­i­cal sys­tem have changed due to unex­pect­ed elec­tion results or the rul­ing gov­ern­ments split up and made elec­tions necessary.

That eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy is the sec­ond issue dis­cussed in this chap­ter is some­what sur­pris­ing as chap­ter three of the EU-27 Watch No. 9 already cov­ers it. But the answers to ques­tion five of the ques­tion­naire focus­es on dif­fer­ent aspects. They either focus on the eco­nom­ic devel­op­ments in the respec­tive nation­al econ­o­my or they deal with the future of the sin­gle cur­ren­cy. In Esto­nia qual­i­fy­ing for Euro­zone acces­sion is regard­ed as an “extra­or­di­nary achieve­ment”. In oth­er mem­ber states, e.g., the Czech Repub­lic and the Unit­ed King­dom, the cur­rent devel­op­ments in the Euro­zone are regard­ed as fur­ther argu­ments against intro­duc­ing the Euro, while Den­mark han­dled the debate on its Euro opt-out with care.

Review­ing the debates on cur­rent issues as they are report­ed, the inter­pre­ta­tion might not be wrong that eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy is by far the most impor­tant top­ic dis­cussed dur­ing the report­ing period.

Outlook: EU remains moving target even after the Lisbon Treaty

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 shows to what degree the Euro­pean Union is a polit­i­cal sys­tem in tran­si­tion dur­ing the report­ing peri­od. The only cer­tain­ty, from the point of view of most of the report­ing coun­tries, seems to be that Croa­t­ia and Ice­land are the can­di­dates which will join the Union next. Mean­while the EU is still search­ing for its bal­ance and a new inter­nal work­ing mode. The Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil seems to be devel­op­ing into a mod­er­a­tor or medi­a­tor, while the role of the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, the EEAS, and the ECI are still in their for­ma­tion phas­es. Thus it is too ear­ly for final assessments.

The same is true for the two pol­i­cy fields touched upon in the EU-27 Watch No. 9. The Unit­ed Nations Cli­mate Change Con­fer­ence in Copen­hagen did not agree on the final bind­ing agree­ment, the EU hoped for. While it remains to be seen, what role the EU can play, Euro­pean actors in cli­mate pol­i­cy hope for the next nego­ti­a­tion round, while in the pub­lic debate the salience of the issue decreas­es. Much more salient was the eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy dur­ing the report­ing peri­od. The heads of state and gov­ern­ment agreed on a sta­bil­i­sa­tion mech­a­nism to react on the cur­rent cri­sis, but apart from broad guide­lines (wish for a stricter Growth and Sta­bil­i­ty Pact and clos­er eco­nom­ic coop­er­a­tion) no con­crete reform steps have been devel­oped so far. Time will tell what these will have to look like in order to be approved by EU and Euro­zone mem­ber states.

Over­all, it can be seen that the Lis­bon Treaty marks not only the end of a long process but also the begin­ning of a new phase of imple­men­ta­tion which we will be able to observe and assess in the future.


  • 1Coun­cil Reg­u­la­tion (EU) No 407/2010 of 11 May 2010 estab­lish­ing a Euro­pean finan­cial sta­bil­i­sa­tion mech­a­nism, in: Offi­cial Jour­nal of the Euro­pean Union, No. L 118 of 12. May 2010, pp. 1–4.
  • 2Coun­cil of the Euro­pean Union: Brus­sels Euro­pean Coun­cil 29/30 Octo­ber 2009. Pres­i­den­cy Con­clu­sions, Doc. 15265/1/09.

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.