Friday, November 20, 2009

Minimalist Europe?

The Financial Times headline tells all after the nomination of Herman Van Rompuy as president of the European Union: “Supremacy of the nation state wins out”.

“You could say it’s a sign that people are tired of assigning more power to Brussels said one diplomat.”

“When the Lisbon treaty (originally the EU constitution) was first mooted in 2001 by the Belgian EU presidency, it was seen as one last push by European federalists to transfer power to Brussels, including national policies on tax and foreign affairs.
That push was rebuffed, and last night’s dinner in Brussels was the coda to that process. (…) Europe’s leaders asserted the supremacy of the nation state: the new president and foreign policy chief would be servants, not the masters, of the national capitals.”

While such forecasts of what a nominated politician will do in office are notoriously hazardous, the symbolic aspect of the choice made yesterday should not go unnoticed: the new president has been (briefly) a prime minister of the European country which met the least success at building a nation state over differences in languages and traditions, and that has been considered recently as being on the verge of implosion. A bad omen indeed for those bent on centralizing even more the European Union.

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