Post-Lisbon realities: much practical work to be done

With the enter­ing into force of the Lis­bon Treaty amidst the ongo­ing eco­nom­ic malaise, the era of lofty visions and grand designs for the future of Europe has end­ed, and the focus now is on prac­ti­cal prob­lem-solv­ing, imple­ment­ing the pro­vi­sions of the treaty, and search­ing for new func­tion­al­i­ty and bal­ance. Putting its house in order and ensur­ing the smooth func­tion­ing of insti­tu­tions after the changes brought by the Lis­bon Treaty will con­sume most of the Union’s ener­gy in 2010. Through­out the process of treaty reform, the Eston­ian gov­ern­ment was a strong pro­po­nent of fur­ther inte­gra­tion and con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­sa­tion. While it would have pre­ferred the orig­i­nal Con­sti­tu­tion­al Treaty over the watered-down Lis­bon ver­sion, the Eston­ian gov­ern­ment nev­er­the­less wel­comes the oppor­tu­ni­ty to leave the bar­gain­ing behind and “get down to real work.” Some com­men­ta­tors, how­ev­er, argue that “the cure with the Lis­bon Treaty has been worse than the dis­ease itself:” while the EU was already off-bal­ance as a result of enlarge­ment, the new treaty pro­duced even greater dis­ori­en­ta­tion and insti­tu­tion­al con­fu­sion.11Ahto Lob­jakas: Euroopa hoovõ­tu­ra­ja lõpp, Pos­timees, 05.01.2010. Such crit­i­cism has focused, above all, on the selec­tion of the new Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil and the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Union for For­eign Affairs and Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy. Accord­ing to a promi­nent Eston­ian EU com­men­ta­tor Ahto Lob­jakas, the Lis­bon Treaty led to a dar­win­is­tic fight for exis­tence in the upper ech­e­lons of the EU hier­ar­chy. Accord­ing to this diag­no­sis, the Union now has four pres­i­dents and one for­eign min­is­ter with­out a func­tion­ing divi­sion of labor. As long as Her­man Van Rompuy, José Manuel Bar­roso, and Cather­ine Ash­ton divide ter­ri­to­ries and learn their jobs, sub­stan­tive pol­i­cy­-mak­ing progress in the EU has been put on a halt. In par­tic­u­lar, no progress can be expect­ed in the realm of for­eign pol­i­cy, and the best one can hope for is retain­ing the sta­tus quo.22Ahto Lob­jakas: Brüs­seli suits ja peeglid, Pos­timees, 03.03.2010.

The selec­tion of the Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil and High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive was heav­i­ly crit­i­cised for lack of trans­paren­cy, democ­ra­cy, and pub­lic involve­ment. Some crit­ics point­ed out that the process resem­bled the pro­ce­dures for select­ing the leader of the Sovi­et Polit­buro in the 1980s, when after the death of anoth­er leader the pub­lic was pre­sent­ed with a hith­er­to unknown name.33Sulev Vedler, cit­ed in Raul Sul­bi: Vedler: ELi pres­i­den­di val­im­ine meenutab poli­it­büroo juhi val­im­ist, Pos­timees, 14.11.2009. “Can any­one imag­ine that we would elect the pres­i­dent of Esto­nia in such a man­ner? That a week before the elec­toral col­lege con­venes, the media would have to spec­u­late about who the can­di­dates are?” asked one jour­nal­ist.44Ibid. Observers com­plained about the lack of ref­er­ence to any con­ceiv­able mer­i­to­crat­ic scale.55Ahto Lob­jakas: Euroopa absolu­utne nullpunkt, Pos­timees, 23.11.2009. Yet oth­ers crit­i­cised the process from a gen­der per­spec­tive, point­ing out that there were far too few women among the can­di­dates for the high EU posts.66Anna-Maria Penu: Soop­ime­da Euroopa Liidu Eikeegid, Pos­timees, 09.12.2009.

Reac­tions to the results of the selec­tion were equal­ly crit­i­cal. While Prime Min­is­ter Andrus Ansip praised both indi­vid­u­als as “expe­ri­enced politi­cians and strong per­son­al­i­ties” well-suit­ed to lead the Euro­pean Coun­cil and to direct the Union’s for­eign pol­i­cy,77Pos­timees: Paet ja Ansip ter­vi­tasid ELi juhtide val­im­ist, 19.11.2009. few oth­ers seemed to share his opti­mism. Marko Mihkel­son, Chair of the Euro­pean affairs com­mit­tee of the Eston­ian par­lia­ment, said Van Rompuy and Ash­ton were a very “cau­tious choice.”88Eesti Päe­vale­ht: Mihkel­son: Rompuy ja Ash­ton olid väga ette­vaat­lik valik, 20.11.2009. The ever-crit­i­cal EU com­men­ta­tor Ahto Lob­jakas por­trayed the selectees as undis­tin­guished bureau­crats who do not rep­re­sent any note­wor­thy cen­ters of pow­er, do not embody any intel­lec­tu­al or ide­o­log­i­cal cur­rent rel­e­vant in Europe today, do not speak in the name of any­one, or stand for any­thing aside from pos­si­ble per­son­al con­vic­tions.99Ahto Lob­jakas: Euroopa absolu­utne nullpunkt, Pos­timees, 23.11.2009. Oth­ers sug­gest­ed that the labels “pres­i­dent” and “for­eign min­is­ter” cre­ate exces­sive expec­ta­tions: in real­i­ty, the Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil is a sec­re­tary gen­er­al of the Euro­pean Coun­cil whose job is to organ­ise meet­ings, and the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive knows ful­ly well that she can­not go against the will of Paris, Lon­don or Berlin. In short, both are pol­i­cy tak­ers, not mak­ers.1010Mar­tin Kala: Et Euroopas või­daks jul­gus, Pos­timees, 18.12.2009. It should be not­ed, how­ev­er, that in con­trast to the ini­tial out­pour of opin­ions, there have been vir­tu­al­ly no attempts in the Eston­ian media to assess the per­for­mance of either Van Rompuy or Ash­ton dur­ing their time in office.

The Eston­ian gov­ern­ment regards the cre­ation of the Euro­pean Exter­nal Action Ser­vice as a pri­or­i­ty. The ser­vice must be “com­pre­hen­sive and strong,” capa­ble of pro­vid­ing sub­stan­tial sup­port to the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Union for For­eign Affairs and Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy, and it should be cre­at­ed “as quick­ly as pos­si­ble.”1111Min­istry of For­eign Affairs: For­eign Min­is­ter Paet: EU Needs Strong Euro­pean Exter­nal Action Ser­vice That Can Help Cit­i­zens of Union in Cri­sis Sit­u­a­tions, press release No 76‑E, 06.03.2010, avail­able at: http://www.vm.ee/?q=en/taxonomy/term/61 (last access: 01.06.2010). Esto­nia empha­sis­es that the ser­vice should include aspects of con­sular work and must be able to help EU cit­i­zens in cri­sis sit­u­a­tions. A small coun­try like Esto­nia has much to gain from a glob­al net­work of EU rep­re­sen­ta­tions (Esto­nia has 44 embassies, con­sulates and rep­re­sen­ta­tions around the world, while the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion has over 130 del­e­ga­tions and offices). Accord­ing to For­eign Min­is­ter Urmas Paet, the ser­vice should have “a lead­ing role in plan­ning out finan­cial resources, for the sake of the coheren­cy of the Com­mon For­eign and Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy and devel­op­ment aid.”1212Ibid. Like sev­er­al oth­er new mem­ber states, Esto­nia also insists on ensur­ing geo­graph­i­cal bal­ance when choos­ing per­son­nel for the ser­vice. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant giv­en the fact that new mem­ber states are under­rep­re­sent­ed in the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and the Council’s bureau­cra­cy, while, accord­ing to cur­rent plans, two-thirds of the staff of the Euro­pean Exter­nal Action Ser­vice will be recruit­ed from the ranks of these insti­tu­tions. Hen­drik Hololei, head of cab­i­net for Com­mis­sion­er Siim Kallas, claimed that “rep­re­sen­ta­tion of all 27 mem­ber states will be the lit­mus test of the [Euro­pean] Exter­nal Action Ser­vice.”1313Kadri Kukk: EL‑i välis­teenis­tusse kan­dideer­im­ine tek­itab pak­su verd, 30.03.2010, avail­able at: http://uudised.err.ee/index.php?06198955 (last access: 01.06.2010). On a relat­ed note, there appear to be ten­sions between the Eston­ian Min­istry of For­eign Affairs and Esto­ni­ans work­ing in EU insti­tu­tions: for rea­sons not entire­ly clear, the min­istry backs its own diplo­mats com­pet­ing for high-rank­ing posts in the new ser­vice, while Esto­ni­ans work­ing in EU insti­tu­tions are left to their own devices.1414Ibid.

There has been very lit­tle pub­lic dis­cus­sion of the rules and pro­ce­dures for the Euro­pean Cit­i­zens’ Ini­tia­tive, aside from a few arti­cles by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the EU insti­tu­tions in the main news­pa­pers. How­ev­er, a poten­tial­ly sig­nif­i­cant devel­op­ment is the launch­ing of a web plat­form,1515See the web­site www.petitsioon.ee (last access: 01.06.2010). where any­one can post or elec­tron­i­cal­ly sign peti­tions using ID-cards equipped with a com­put­er chip. The peti­tions launched so far have focused on domes­tic and local issues, but the plat­form could be used to col­lect sig­na­tures to sup­port Euro­pean-wide ini­tia­tives.

    Footnotes

  • 1Ahto Lob­jakas: Euroopa hoovõ­tu­ra­ja lõpp, Pos­timees, 05.01.2010.
  • 2Ahto Lob­jakas: Brüs­seli suits ja peeglid, Pos­timees, 03.03.2010.
  • 3Sulev Vedler, cit­ed in Raul Sul­bi: Vedler: ELi pres­i­den­di val­im­ine meenutab poli­it­büroo juhi val­im­ist, Pos­timees, 14.11.2009.
  • 4Ibid.
  • 5Ahto Lob­jakas: Euroopa absolu­utne nullpunkt, Pos­timees, 23.11.2009.
  • 6Anna-Maria Penu: Soop­ime­da Euroopa Liidu Eikeegid, Pos­timees, 09.12.2009.
  • 7Pos­timees: Paet ja Ansip ter­vi­tasid ELi juhtide val­im­ist, 19.11.2009.
  • 8Eesti Päe­vale­ht: Mihkel­son: Rompuy ja Ash­ton olid väga ette­vaat­lik valik, 20.11.2009.
  • 9Ahto Lob­jakas: Euroopa absolu­utne nullpunkt, Pos­timees, 23.11.2009.
  • 10Mar­tin Kala: Et Euroopas või­daks jul­gus, Pos­timees, 18.12.2009.
  • 11Min­istry of For­eign Affairs: For­eign Min­is­ter Paet: EU Needs Strong Euro­pean Exter­nal Action Ser­vice That Can Help Cit­i­zens of Union in Cri­sis Sit­u­a­tions, press release No 76‑E, 06.03.2010, avail­able at: http://www.vm.ee/?q=en/taxonomy/term/61 (last access: 01.06.2010).
  • 12Ibid.
  • 13Kadri Kukk: EL‑i välis­teenis­tusse kan­dideer­im­ine tek­itab pak­su verd, 30.03.2010, avail­able at: http://uudised.err.ee/index.php?06198955 (last access: 01.06.2010).
  • 14Ibid.
  • 15See the web­site www.petitsioon.ee (last access: 01.06.2010).

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.