This week we look forward to the sunday elections to the European Parliament. Most of the European political parties represented in the Parliament have nominated frontrunners that are also their nominees for the top job in the Commission. With one of the new powers provided under the Lisbon Treaty. On 27 October 2004 the European Parliament refused to elect the new Commission, the European Union executive.
The new procedure under which the European Commission President is elected by the EP will strengthen the Commission’s legitimacy and political role and will make the European elections more important by linking the voters’ choice in the elections to the European Parliament more directly to the election of the Commission President.
Between 22 and 25 May 2014, EU citizens will have the opportunity to cast their votes in these important elections for the European Parliament, together electing the 751 MEPs to represent them for the next five years.
Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, campaigning for Europeans to vote on election-day, discuss European challenges in 100-year start from the First World War a century after 1914. What today’s politicians learn out of the war?
What are the prospects for the EU in the shadow of the economic crisis, increased international competition and unstable border regions to the south and east? And what can we in 25 year after the fall of the Berlin Wall read out of the ongoing conflict on the Ukraine?
Carl Bildt is a former Prime Minister of Sweden and its current Foreign Minister. He’s perhaps better known to an international audience as a key mediator in the Balkan conflict, who co-chaired the Dayton peace conference and went on to become the United Nations’ special envoy in the Balkans.
In the midst of the financial crisis in 2009 and 2010, EPP parties in governments reacted quickly and decisively in order to pull Europe back from the brink of disaster. In 2011 and 2012, we kept the Euro area together. We have set the agenda for economic reform and growth-friendly fiscal consolidation in the Member States.
It is time to re-affirm the values of the Social Market Economy. It requires balancing the principles of freedom and solidarity, along with the need for free markets and the common good. EPP are determined to lead Europe out of the crisis.
Over the years, the number of EU institutions has increased. Article 13 of the Treaty on European Union lists the following institutions: the European Council; the European Parliament; the Council; the European Commission: the European Court of Auditors; the European Central Bank and the European Court of Justice based on a system of the rule of law,, the primacy of of which is recognised over national law.
Alongside these institutions, there is more than 30 European agencies and decentralised EU bodies, which can be divided into various different categories. European committees, such as the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of Regions, also exist, and play an advisory role. As special position is occupied by the European External Action Service, which was established in 2012. It is stipulated in the Treaty of Lisbon that its employees are to be drawn form the staff of the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, and from the diplomatic services of Member States.
In 2009 the Treaty of Lisbon gives Parliament increased power, transforming the co-decision procedure into the ordinary legislative procedure and extending its scope. It also links the appointment of the Commission President to the result of the European elections, and fixes the number of MEPs at 750, plus the President. In terms of legislative power, the Treaty of Lisbon further extended the use of co-decision procedure, most notably to agriculture, fisheries, international trade, and justice and home affairs, renaming it the ordinary legislative procedure. Some 95€ of EU legislation is now adopted under the ordinary legislative procedure giving Parliament equal weight with Council in shaping EU laws affecting our lives and the EU´s future.
For about half of all EU legislation, which is adopted under the consultation procedure, the Council is the dominant actor.
Recent history shows that when the Parliament managed to force the resignation of the EU Jacques Santer Commission, the legislative body claimed an early victory, but the real winner was the Council. Its overwhelming control has not only been maintained, but it has grown with the changes culminating with the Treaty of Lisbon. While the Parliament can justly claim that its powers have increased with the reinforcement of the traditional co-decision procedure, a new entity has been elevated to the category of full institutions–the European Council. And this is headed by the semi-permanent president who can stay at the helmfor five years.
The degree of agenda control by the European party leaders is more limited than in most national parliaments. Indeed, the European Commission has the exclusive right of initiative of nearly all legislation. Hence, legislation that comes on the floor of the European Parliament emanates from outside the parliament and not from a majority coalition inside the parliament.
One evidence is that the European parties do not have many instruments to discipline their members. A second reason, they do not control the selection of candidates in European Parliament elections, as this is controlled by the national parties who make up the European parties. The European parties in the EP also have no control over the future career of MEPs, as it is again the national parties who control the allocation of ministerial portfolios and other jobs in the domestic arena and the selection of European Commissioners.
The particular relationship between the European Parliament and the EU executive (the Commission) makes the EU a mixed political system. On the one hand, like a parliamentary system, the Commission has monopoly on legislative initiative, and is initially elected by a majority in the European Parliament, and so it can be selective when making proposals to the parliament and can expect that a majority in the parliament will share its basic a policy preferences.
On the other hand, like a separation of powers system, the Commission has few powers to force the parties in the parliament to support its proposals or to prevent the parties in the parliament from amending its proposals significantly. For this legislation, the Commission will be less concerned with making proposals that satisfy a particular coalition in the European Parliament than making proposals that will pass through the Council.
Under the co-decision procedure, which must pass through and oversized majority (a qualified-majority) in the Council as well as a simple majority in the european Parliament, the Commission will try to balance the interests of the governments in the Council and the parties in the Parliament. Many say that it is the Commission or the Troika, but they can only propose, at the end , the decisions are taken by the Member States.
In addition to its legislative, budgetary and nominatory power, Parliament also has powers of scrutiny of oversight over the other EU institutions, monitoring how they work and spend EU funds. And as the voice for citizens concerns, Parliament can continue to use its legislative initiative resolutions to put new and important issues onto the European political agenda. So we should all vote and make our voice heard.
Youth unemployment – a result of the economic crisis – has put the future of an entire generation at risk. The Eurostat study showed that 79.8 percent of Swedes between the ages of 20 and 64 were employed in 2013. The lowest employment rates were in Greece (53.2 percent) and Croatia (53.9 percent). There are levels where more can be done at the European level and others where more can be done at the national or even regional level. It has to be tailor-made solutions for different countries in EU, keeping in mind that the EP solutions have to be implemented by the Member States in line with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality set out in the treaties.
What is needed is a real consensus, most important political forces and optimally the most important way forward: To build bridges between countries and between citizens to make Europe stronger.
The EPP does not believe that a further exacerbation of debt and deficit levels is the right way to exit from the crisis and create growth in Europe. We stand for fiscal consolidation implemented in a growth-friendly manner. We need to strike the right balance between fiscal consolidation and growth-enhancing policies, which support the real economy and help to create new, stable jobs, in order to tackle high unemployment rates and protect social cohesion.
Economic integration between independent states is not new. The Scandinavian monetary union of Sweden, Denmark and Norway lasted from 1873 until 1924.
The EU has been strengthened by the euro and the Treaty of Lisbon. For the first time, the Lisbon Treaty gives Parliaments of EU Member States the possibility to directly influence the decision-making processes on an EU level. Under the consultation procedure, the European Parliament has an incentive to propose amendments that are acceptable to the Commission, as these are then likely to be supported by the Commission and backed by the Council.
Consequently the European Union is a to large extent a policy based on rules and legal integration to form and maintain powerful in world politics, a trend towards legal rules and institutions, including an emphasis of human rights. The EU is more than an economic project. It is a political one. It is a community of culture and of shared values and interests essential to forge a common destiny.
The fact is that one of the EU’s main successes has been its gradual enlargement, its willingness to project and root democracy, security and shared prosperity across most of the continent, across “Europe as a whole”, as Churchill said. In any event, the most important element of the federation by exception would possibly be its strong democratic anchor. With ”more integration”.
European democracy must be built by Europeans showing up to vote on election-day; We should also remind Europeans that voting for extremist and populist parties is voting for an empty chair in the European Parliament. Main messages of Jean-Claude Juncker during his campaign visit to Athens, Greece.
These voting for extremist are elections that are, I believe, a risk to the future of Europe.
- democracy, security and shared prosperity values and principles across “Europe as a whole”
Today that idea is under assault in Ukraine. Our countries again share values and a strong interest in the fate of 200,000 Crimean Tatars who suddenly find themselves, involuntarily, in Russia. Russian military intervention in Ukraine is clearly against international law and principles of European security. President Obama made clear that Russia’s continued violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would negatively impact Russia’s standing in the international community. Faced with such grave crisis in Europe, the EU will continue to work in close cooperation with the international community.
The Council of Europe and the European Union are based on the same underlying values, as we are all committed to certain values and principles, making them easy to confuse. However, the Council of Europe is not an EU organization. It is an international organization with its headquarter in Strasbourg, and with a membership of 47 European countries.
The Council of Europe´s objectives are to promote democracy and to protect human rights and the rule of law in Europe.
Russia was among those who committed in 1994 to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.Russia has called into question its credibility and reliability as an international actor. And its steps to annex Crimea are a clear violation of the UN charter. All 47 member states of the Council of Europe are signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights. The European Court of Human Rights, which also sits in Strasbourg, deals with complaints that this Convention has been violated.
As member states, Strengthening democracy, in the Council of Europe´s Committee of Ministers meeting in Vienna on 6th May, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt´s speech underlined gravity of Russia’s violation of core commitment by occupation and annexation of Crimea. Which must never be accepted. Strengthening democracy. Reinforcing the rule of law. And protecting the human rights of everyone throughout our continent.
Mr Bildt reminded the audience that he is a firm believer that the task of our generation is to safeguard a Europe whole and free, where democratic principles and human rights are fully respected. “This can never be achieved if we go back to the policies of past centuries – policies of sending armies towards and across each other, of aggression against neighbours, and of changing borders, said Mr Bildt referring to the crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s military intervention in Crimea.
We therefore have no choice – today, here, as this Committee of Ministers – but to stand up to defend the values upon which the Council of Europe was founded 65 years ago”, said Foreign Minister Carl Bildt in his speech by reminding the current challenges:
Russia’s aggression against neighbours, as one of the reasons they are meeting today and the Council of Europe values and stability in Europe to Strengthening democracy. Reinforcing the rule of law. And protecting the human rights of everyone throughout our continent. He also called for all 47 states to support the holding of the presidential elections in Ukraine on May 25th 2014.
Ukraine’s May 25 election, an event critical to strengthening the legitimacy of Ukraine’s government as it confronts attacks by Russia, may in some ways be the freest vote for a Ukrainian president since the country became independent 22 years ago. We welcome the inclusive process, notably the round tables held in the recent days, which led to the adoption of the Memorandum of Peace and Concord by the Parliament of Ukraine.
The round tables of national unity have underlined the preparedness of Ukrainians from different political backgrounds and regions to take up this challenge. The EU stands ready to assist Ukraine in this endeavour, and it counts on other international partners to do the same.
This year also marks multiple anniversaries of crucial importance to the transatlantic community, including the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. 2014 will also mark the centenary of World War I and the tenth anniversary of the transformative EU accession that for the first time included former communist countries from Central and Eastern Europe. First NATO was expanded to 28 Member States, then the EU grew to 27 (now 28) and more candidates are waiting in the wings. Ukraine is not a member of NATO, it is not under the nuclear umbrella, and there are no obligations to protect it.
“Security benefits in a mutual defence alliance include chiefly a reduced probability of being attacked (deterrence), greater strength in case of attack (defense) and prevention of the ally’s alliance with one’s adversary (preclusion). But the Allies stand together in the spirit of strong solidarity” and promising to “support all constructive efforts for a peaceful solution to the current crisis.
One of the very fundamental principles that everyone decided upon at the end of the Cold War, at the end of the Soviet Union, at the end of Yugoslavia, was: don’t change the borders,”Swedish Foreign minister Carl Bildt told CNBC. Mr Bildt was a mediator during the Balkans conflict 1995
Crimean crisis and Russia are the greatest problems in international politics .
2014 will also be a critical year for both the EU and its energy policy, especially in light of the current developments in Russia and Ukraine. For years EU was speaking of a strategic partnership with Russia. Europe-wide free trade zone in the fields of security, economics, freedom and research that would also include Ukraine. Latest proposal was a new Europe-wide security treaty. This would not replace NATO, and neither was it directed against the EU, but to some extent it would complement both.
However, nothing in the current situation bears the promise of any of that. Meanwhile the US was turning towards Asia and focusing more on its relations in the Asia Pacific and Russia was seeking to set up a Eurasian Union, which Putin wished to take the same form as the EU. Europe needs to develop the full range of its instruments, including its security and defence posture, in the light of its interests and these geostrategic developments.
It is said that the European Union is progressively emerging as a security player, in Europe and beyond. For the EU leaders, one theme to consider now is the concern about high energy prices, the vulnerability to price shocks, and the increasing natural gas and Russia oil import dependency. There is also need to strengthen the European Union’s external action, by using all instruments available at European and national levels.
The continent of Europe is the northwestern peninsula of the Eurasia landmass and stretches from the mid Atlantic ridge in the west to the Ural Mountains in the east. It splits the Russian Federation and Turkey, and the geographical heart is claimed to be in Lithuania. Crimea, a peninsula jutting into the northern tip of the Black Sea. This strategically-located region has been fought over many times over the course of its complicated history.
Russia fought 1853 an alliance of the Ottoman Empire, France, Britain and Sardinia over disputes involving the Middle East and religion.
A three-year war that started in 1853 and ended up with Russia keeping Crimea even though it lost the war. Long a part of Russia, it was given to Ukraine in 1954 and, despite an ethnic Russian majority, a post-Soviet independence movement and a good dose of autonomy, it is still technically Ukrainian.
In an ECFR essay collection Pyotr Stegny points out that Russia is unhappy that the values that won the Cold War – democracy, human rights, and the market economy – began to be seen by the West “not only as a prerequisite for sustainable development […], but also as a regulator and criterion for progress.” Russia had failed to impose its own terms on the West but was unwilling to join either European or Euro-Atlantic integration on Western terms.
Therefore, it began to try to assemble its own integrationist project that could compete with the EU and China. It hoped that, from that position, it would be able to negotiate with others as an equal. The Eurasian Union is a practical project that also reflects the thinking of Russia’s foreign policymaking class as a whole rooting in Russia’s eternal need to define its place between Asia and Europe.
Russian military intervention in Ukraine is clearly illegal and against international law and principles of European security. Russia is complicated problem. Vladimir Butin´s expansionism is deeply troubling, and arming the Ukrainians with weapons more substantial makes a major conflict more likely, not less.
“Things like comprehension, and understanding the plausibility of motives behind the action [whether they are there or not] do not change the essential fact: the occupation of the territory of a sovereign state is illegal under international law. The whole history of the world, and especially the history of Europe, consists almost entirely of wars. This constant has one and only one reason and motive: territorial conquest.
The post-World War Two European order, enshrined in the Helsinki agreement, is based on a simple taboo: the strict prohibition on war as a means of territorial expansion.”Says Mr Bildt: Independent.co.uk/news.
The Western position will only consolidate; it will not diverge. When international law is broken, sanctions will follow.” And to cut energy and raw material imports from Russia will be even more painful. “But to preserve the crucial principles of international law, democracies must be prepared for big sacrifices”, Sweden’s Foreign Minister calculates Russia has lost $150bn in recent months, he tells Alexander Lebedev (Saturday 24 May 2014 Independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features).
Mr Bildt is right that there is plent to worry about. He also rattles off a list: “We need to restart the Geneva process. They simply need to say some right words, make some symbolic gestures. For instance, the Russian senate can withdraw its authorisation to use military force; they can pull the troops away from borders; they should start a dialogue with Europe and Kiev; make a declaration against separatism; and make a statement that changing current borders by force is not permissible.”
A notable development in this regard is Turkey’s prime real estate at the crossroads of East and West, And is perfectly positioned to be the link between suppliers and customers, as it has been so many times before. This promising petro-partnership could help bring Turkey closer to the EU, where member countries are eager to diversify their energy sources.
From the broader strategic point of view, Ukraine is the main transit country for Russian gas supplies to the European Union. Russia pumps natural gas under the Black Sea via the “Blue Stream” pipeline. To the West, very promising gas fields are spread under the eastern Mediterranean. All of these resources may find that the best and quickest route to voracious European markets is through Turkey.
As Turkey itself recognises, reform remains a work in progress. Forign minsters Carl Bildt carefully consider Turkey’s ability to inspire reform in its neighborhood, linked to its EU accession process and notice that Turkey of today is radically transformed from the country that applied to join the EU a quarter of a century ago. Significant results have been achieved just as the EU helped consolidate democracy across Central Europe and continues to promote democracy in Eastern Europe, accession process that has played a powerful role in supporting Turkey’s reforms in areas such as civilian control of the military and the independence of the judiciary.
One of many notable message in this challenge is basically the need of new momentum into EU and Turkey process that will benefit both the EU and Turkey to achieve more and send a stronger message to encourage transformation. Challenges highlight how much diplomatic work will need to be done for Turkey to meet its energy potential. It would be in all our interests to see Turkey move forward, for example, in implementing the EU’s energy framework as set forth in the acqui communitare.
The EU’s historical contribution to peace and security in Europe and continues to promote democracy, security and stability in the world around us is well-known – for which it has even been granted a Nobel peace prize. The enlargement of the Union towards former Soviet republics remains in line with this major heritage. This policy is perhaps the EU’s most absolute contribution to regional and global security. It has allowed the EU to expand in a peaceful and voluntary manner, making obsolete the concepts of colonialism and conquest.
In the Western Balkans, and in spite of remarkable progress over the last decades including the recent breakthrough in the EU-facilitated Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, unfinished business remains. Increasingly also the “neighbours of the neighbours” are being affected, e.g. in the Sahel or in the Horn of Africa, two regions where the Union is conducting five crisis management missions.
We’ve seen successful EU anti-piracy missions off the coast of Somalia, training missions for the Somalian military, and missions in Mali and the Central African Republic. Progress was made on the three dimensions of the peace and security partnership between the EU and the African Union: strengthening the political dialogue, making the African peace and security architecture (APSA) fully operational and providing predictable funding for the AU’s peacekeeping operations have earned it more praise.
A strong EU is also key to creating a successful security policy, protecting our citizens at home and our interests around the world. Above all, a strong EU is the best answer to the challenges of the 21st century. New forces have begun shaping the twenty-first century, neither the United States nor Europe can afford to look inward, that instead we must engage in the world around us. We are in an era in which it is no longer possible for any one nation to secure its own peace only by itself. This is a view shared throughout the world. Therefore, the EU must become a genuine Political Union.
Over the last two decades, the EU institutions have been granted more powers in the security area, as well as an extended mandate to defend European interests and shape the EU’s global profile.
The first is political, and it concerns fulfilling Europe’s ambitions on the world stage. The second is operational: ensuring that Europe has the right military capabilities to be able to act. And the third is economic: here it’s about jobs, innovation and growth”.
It had become quite necessary for the Heads of State and Government of the EU to address defence. When building capabilities for European defence, the sole possible architect is the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the most cost-effective way to use European defence budgets remains cooperation. It also means that Europe must assume greater responsibility for its own security and that of its neighbourhood. European citizens and the international community will judge Europe first on how it performs in the neighbourhood.
Since no EU Member State can single-handedly shape global events and make a significant impact on their development, it is in the interest of all EU Member States to ensure that their actions are cohesive.
European integration and NATO membership are part of Germany´s raison détat. NATO’s constitutive values and norms, NATO decision-making was mainly driven by U.S. initiatives, leadership, and ultimately U.S. bargaining power within NATO. Germany owes its economic prosperity to international trade and should thus make a contribution to world peace and global security.
Europe is facing a threat to peace, stability and security the likes of which we have not seen since fall of Iron Curtain. Today’s threats are as real and, at times, as daunting as those we faced during the Cold War. As Europe’s broader neighbourhood has become increasingly volatile, and as the US strategic focus shifts toward Asia, this strategic including Energy security debate is more urgent than ever in Europe. And it requires continued work to continuing the important work of building a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace.
The strategic chapter of the High Representative’s preparatory report for the December 2013 European Council annual conference, Brussels 21 March 2014 offers the clearest ever indication of what the level of ambition could be: Europe needs strategic autonomy; in its broad neighbourhood; in order to protect interests; by projecting power; with partners but alone if necessary. Furthermore, the Maritime Security Strategy highlights the fact that Europeans have a vital stake in global maritime security.
The next High Representative would do well to take this as a starting point when taking up the European Council’s tasking to assess the implications of the changing geopolitical environment in layman’s terms: to produce a strategy.
The sole possible architect is the European Defence Agency (EDA). Those who have to reach consensus and invest are the EU Member States; Jo Coelmont and Sven Biscop Egmont – Royal Institute for International Relations
The EU, with all the soft power that the Union can obtain but also with military when they are necessary, we need both in our immediate neighborhood and on the international scene to lay the foundations for peace, democracy and freedom.