Monday

18th Mar 2019

EUobserved

EU reforms – what about the rest of the players?

It seems most can agree on one thing: Europe is in need of reform. What reform is not entirely clear yet.

But the main thing is to show that the EU is reacting to the May vote which ushered in a swathe of anti-establishment MEPs on the back of yet another low turnout.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

For the moment, Jean-Claude Juncker, the embattled would-be commission president, has unwittingly become the focal point of a loud debate not only about what reform will take place but whether the EU has any appetite for change.

Britain, as loudest, has been arguing that appointing him would, from the get-go, indicate that the EU will simply carry on as usual.

So the debate has become larger than Juncker himself. Leaving aside the peculiar dynamics of the Spitzenkandidat process, the Luxembourg politician hardly represents a new departure for EU politics.

In that sense he doesn't embody the most superficial requirement of an EU intending to reform - a fresh(er) face.

But the "reform" debate thus far has fixated entirely on Juncker and the European Commission. As if they are the only players in the discussion.

The other players needed to bring about change over the next five years are the member states and the European Parliament.

During the past five years, as the European Commission gained substantial new powers to poke around in member states national budgets, there was increasing discussion about the EU's democratic deficit.

The topic made it onto EU leaders' agenda a couple of times but there it remained, largely unaddressed. Yet it is key to the future survival of the EU.

With Brussels now pronouncing on issues such as social welfare spending, the need to connect the EU with national politics has become acute.

Other issues also illustrate the lack of reform impetus.

The next multi-annual EU budget, for example, keeps its heavy focus on farm policy at the expense of a budget line to fund to transport, energy and telecoms project.

Talk on loosening the stability pact to allow for longer periods to cut deficits, or allowing more leeway for major public investment programmes has remained just that - talk - for several years.

Meanwhile it is more than time to put an end to the Strasbourg seat of the European Parliament, which represents an indefensible waste of money.

As for the European Parliament - if the appointment (or not) of Juncker has taken on great symbolic value - the EU assembly could also make major gestures of its own.

Not stitching up the EP's presidency between the two biggest groups would be a start. It's hardly a fresh message to see, according to the German press, that Martin Schulz may become EP president again, supported by the EPP, so he does not emerge empty-handed from the spitzenkandidat process.

Having the vote by secret ballot is no way to do things either. The vote should be open and citizens should see exactly how their MEPs voted - both for the EP and the commission president.

Sometimes it's easier to throw stones - either publicly or privately - at a sitting (Grand Duchy) target than actually bring about change.

EUobserved

Institutional fisticuffs

MEPs spent months and months carefully constructing a house of cards. EU leaders just blew the whole thing down with one dismissive puff.

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

News in Brief

  1. Three killed in possible 'terror' gun attack in Utrecht
  2. Third Brexit vote this week only if DUP will support it
  3. Germany's two largest banks confirm merger talks
  4. Serbian pro-democracy protests reach 15th week
  5. 'Yellow Vest' riots leave Paris shops vandalised
  6. European woman older when having first baby
  7. Majority of Germans want Merkel to stay on
  8. Asylum applications in the EU down to 580,800 in 2018

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  3. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  6. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  11. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  12. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us