Wednesday

28th Sep 2016

EUobserved

Renzi - reminding Europe of what it doesn't have

Well that was quite refreshing. In he bounded, the right side of 40, all grins and references to selfies and ancient philosophers, brash and self-confident.

Yes, it was Italian PM Matteo Renzi's first appearance in the European Parliament. Speaking without notes, he told his audience that Europe is moving at half the speed of the rest of the world, that its single-minded focus on financial spreadsheets has eviscerated its soul and that its face was tired and resigned.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

He sounded like a man who was about to become president of the EU rather than just have his bureaucracy oversee the EU's law-making bureaucracy for the coming half year.

Riding the back of a strong victory in the EU elections, where a reform platform saw him win 41 percent of the Italian vote, his ebullience begs listeners to look at who he is sharing the EU stage with.

From the heart of the EU institutions there is Jose Manuel Barroso, on his way out as European Commission President. Change-with-the-wind pragmatic and making policy from the backfoot, he is likely to be remembered as presiding over a commission that slid down the institutional hierarchy.

Alongside him, in irascible tandem, is Herman Van Rompuy - an apologetic, haiku-spouting persona more comfortable outside the spotlight than in it. His main job has been to make what Berlin wants palatable for everyone else.

Which brings us to Europe's de facto leader German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Pushed into the limelight by the economic crisis, Merkel has shaped the EU's austerity-filled response to it. As the crisis has worn on, both the chancellor herself as well as everyone else has got oddly inured to the set-up. It's not a healthy situation for anyone (the latest deal whereby Berlin essentially nominated the next EP president as part of her governing coalition's balance of power was a case in point).

Germany's relative power used to be counterbalanced and hidden by France. Now Paris has all but disappeared from the scene. President Francois Hollande has become a side player, hobbled by terrible approval ratings, a stagnant economy and the far-right's win in the EU elections.

Of the other major countries in the EU, Spain's Mariano Rajoy has failed to make an impression while Poland's Donald Tusk, although making a name for himself as the EU's foremost proponent of energy union, is equally undynamic.

Meanwhile, the UK's David Cameron, in thrall to the hardcore eurosceptic element of his Conservative Party, hollers for reform but fails to spell out what "reform" means. The only certain element being that - whatever it is - it won't satisfy his party.

Awaiting us in autumn is Jean-Claude Juncker, who, whatever about his qualifications for the post as EU commission president, simply looks tired after a lifetime in politics.

Renzi is trying to change the narrative. He wants softer fiscal rules. He reminds that there is also a "growth part" to the stability pact. He told his own parliament that the EU is like a "boring old aunt" constantly nagging away.

His power should not be exaggerated. He is just one leader. And his political weight both at home, and especially abroad, lies with how much of his promised reforms he can achieve.

Still he reminds us what is missing from Europe and its leaders - verve, skill and self-confidence.

EU parliament approves Juncker commission

MEPs have approved Juncker's new EU commission, with a slightly smaller majority than in 2010, and following a number of concessions on portfolios.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. GoogleDid You Know Europe's Largest Dinosaur Gallery Is in Brussels? Check It Out Now
  2. IPHRHuman Rights in Uzbekistan After Karimov - Joint Statement
  3. CISPECloud Infrastructure Providers Unveil Data Protection Code of Conduct
  4. EFAMessages of Hope From the Basque Country and Galicia
  5. Access NowDigital Rights Heroes and Villains. See Who Protects Your Rights, Who Wants to Take Them Away
  6. Martens CentreQuo Vadis Georgia? What to Expect From the Parliamentary Elections. Debate on 29 September
  7. EJCAppalled by Recommendation to Remove Hamas From EU Terrorism Watch List
  8. GoogleBringing Education to Refugees in Lebanon With the Clooney Foundation for Justice
  9. HuaweiAn Industry-leading ICT Solution Provider and Building a Better World
  10. World VisionUN Refugees Meeting a Wasted Opportunity to Improve the Lives of Millions of Children
  11. Belgrade Security ForumCan Democracy Survive Global Disorder?
  12. GoogleTrimming the Waste-Line: Weaving Circular Economy Principles Into Our Operations