Much needed leadership in times of crisis

The Lis­bon Treaty was await­ed with inter­est – if not with trep­i­da­tion – in Greece, where rat­i­fi­ca­tion had pro­ceed­ed smooth­ly, while the main­stream polit­i­cal forces, the media and acad­e­mia were expect­ing that insti­tu­tion­al change would serve as an incen­tive for a more active Europe.11See, among oth­ers, G. Anas­tas­sopou­los: in: TO VIMA, 10 Decem­ber 2009; P.K. Ioakimidis, in: METARRYTHMISSI, Vol. 35, May 2010. The fact that new pro­vi­sions of the Lis­bon Treaty start­ed work­ing just as a severe, real-time cri­sis sit­u­a­tion was under­way (even more so, a cri­sis in which Greece was instru­men­tal indeed) served to make the treaty’s imple­men­ta­tion and the Union’s insti­tu­tion­al mech­a­nisms in gen­er­al a major issue.

The fig­ure of Her­man Van Rompuy was ini­tial­ly greet­ed with some reluc­tance, although not in a neg­a­tive way, giv­en the lack of “inter­na­tion­al stature” of the Bel­gian ex-Prime Min­is­ter. Ref­er­ences to his con­sen­sus-build­ing prowess or even to his haiku-writ­ing were often found in the media; but when the Greek debt cri­sis (and the search for some sort of “Euro­pean solu­tion”) erupt­ed, Van Rompuy’s role in con­duct­ing Euro­pean Coun­cil Sum­mit oper­a­tions, espe­cial­ly in March 2010, and in bridg­ing the bit­ter dif­fer­ences between Ger­many and France or rather between Angela Merkel and Nico­las Sarkozy, brought him cen­tre-stage in Greece.

Based on this cru­cial test case of low-inten­si­ty lead­er­ship, Van Rompuy’s ten­den­cy to favour more reg­u­lar (and more focused) Euro­pean Coun­cil ses­sions was greet­ed pos­i­tive­ly. The uneasy equi­lib­ri­um between the Van Rompuy Pres­i­den­cy of the Euro­pean Coun­cil and the cur­rent (rotat­ing) Span­ish Pres­i­den­cy looks set to cre­ate prob­lems – which, in turn, would be solved by yield­ing more pow­ers to the Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil. The fact that the “slow rota­tion” of Eurogroup/ECOFIN Coun­cils – along with the hands-on per­son­al­i­ty of Jean-Claude Junck­er, who also proved instru­men­tal in the Greek debt issue – had pos­i­tive results for cri­sis man­age­ment (espe­cial­ly in the dra­mat­ic May 2010 ses­sions, where the sup­port mech­a­nism of the economies of Por­tu­gal, Italy, Ire­land, Greece and Spain (PIIGS) was pieced togeth­er, with Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund assis­tance) accents this evo­lu­tion.22For a balanced/critical approach to the post-Lis­bon Treaty Europe, see Loukas Tsoukalis: Europe in a Chang­ing World [in Greek], in: Inter­na­tion­al and Euro­pean Pol­i­tics (Vol. 17), p. 17; P. Ioakimidis., First Impres­sions from the appli­ca­tion of the Lis­bon Treaty, p. 45.

The fig­ure of Cather­ine Ash­ton, at the helm of For­eign Affairs and Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy, was seen as a let­down inso­far as expec­ta­tions for “more Europe” in for­eign rela­tions were fuelled by the Lis­bon Treaty. Her per­for­mance in office served to con­firm ini­tial hes­i­ta­tions.

In Greece, progress towards a more cred­i­ble Euro­pean for­eign pol­i­cy is viewed pos­i­tive­ly. But the cre­ation and per­spec­tives of the Euro­pean Exter­nal Action Ser­vice (EEAS), as a tan­gi­ble instru­ment towards this goal, have obtained very lit­tle inter­est. In the same way, expec­ta­tions from the Euro­pean Cit­i­zens’ Ini­tia­tive (ECI), an ele­ment of direct democ­ra­cy on the Euro­pean lev­el estab­lished in the Lis­bon Treaty, are quite high in Greece – both in pub­lic opin­ion and in acad­e­mia. But the Commission’s pro­pos­al for set­ting up the ECI mech­a­nism has remained large­ly unknown.

    Footnotes

  • 1See, among oth­ers, G. Anas­tas­sopou­los: in: TO VIMA, 10 Decem­ber 2009; P.K. Ioakimidis, in: METARRYTHMISSI, Vol. 35, May 2010.
  • 2For a balanced/critical approach to the post-Lis­bon Treaty Europe, see Loukas Tsoukalis: Europe in a Chang­ing World [in Greek], in: Inter­na­tion­al and Euro­pean Pol­i­tics (Vol. 17), p. 17; P. Ioakimidis., First Impres­sions from the appli­ca­tion of the Lis­bon Treaty, p. 45.

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.