Tuesday

31st Mar 2020

Barroso says EU is an 'empire'

The EU is not just any old international organisation, nor is it a superstate, but it might just be an "empire," according to European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso.

Veering into uncharted naming territory after being asked on Tuesday (10 July) by a journalist what kind of a structure the 27-nation bloc is, Mr Barroso said "We are a very special construction unique in the history of mankind,"

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

"Sometimes I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of empire. We have the dimension of empire," he said.

He went on the clarify that instead of like super state empires of old, the EU empire is built on voluntary pooling of power and not on military conquest.

"What we have is the first non-imperial empire," said the centre-right Mr Barroso, who was formally Portugal's prime minister.

"We have 27 countries that fully decided to work together and to pool their sovereignty. I believe it is a great construction and we should be proud of it."

The commission chief said he did not see why the EU should constantly be in "existential doubt" about this, adding that he did not see there being a danger of British, German or French identity ever being lost.

Communications commissioner Margot Wallstrom, present at the same press conference, steered clear of empire references.

Instead she paraphrased former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright's comment that one has to be either a "genius or French" to understand the EU.

They made the comments after giving the commission's official go ahead to a new treaty outline for the bloc.

This is to be negotiated over the coming months and is to result in a treaty being finalised before the end of the year.

The treaty mandate was agreed at an ill-tempered EU summit last month and is already being put into question in some capitals.

Poland has been particularly vocal about re-opening a key part of the agreement on EU voting rights.

But Mr Barroso reiterated previous comments that the treaty outline should not be undone.

"There is a principle of good faith. For me it is as important as any legal commitment," he said. "It is inconceivable that an agreement that was agreed unanimously in June is reopened now."

Analysis

First 100 days: Digital and Green Deal policies hit by crises

The first 100 days of Ursula von der Leyen's commission were supposed to be about the digital and environmental transitions. However, that agenda has been hit by first the coronavirus, and now the Greek border situation.

Feature

How corporate lobbyists steer EU law-making

Former EUobserver investigations editor Peter Teffer has written a new book about how lobbying in the EU works. The EU's focus on the internal market offers corporate lobbyists a perfect means to forward their interests.

Investigation

G4S: the EU's preferred security contractor

The British multinational security company G4S lost its contract with the European Parliament in 2011 in a backlash from MEPs over alleged abuses in Israel. Today, they guard the parliament's main entrance and have become the EU's top security provider.

Exclusive

EU commissioner lobbied by energy firm he owns shares in

EU budget commissioner Johannes Hahn owns 2,200 shares in Austria's largest electricity provider. Those shares have tripled in value since he first declared them in 2014. In January, the firm met his head of cabinet to discuss climate policy.

EU transparency on lobbyist meetings still piecemeal

Small steps are being made to reveal who is lobbying who within the EU. But the approach is basically haphazard and piecemeal - meaning the public remains largely in the dark and unable to truly scrutinise the influencers.

'Top-down' future of Europe conference 'will fail' warning

The new president of the Committee of the Regions has warned the EU Commission that a top-down, centralised, Brussels-driven conference will fail to rebuild trust in Europe. Instead, he proposes a stronger say for local and regional authorities.

News in Brief

  1. 12-year old Belgian girl dies of coronavirus
  2. EU Commission: no 'indefinite' emergency measures
  3. Denmark plans 'gradual' return to normal after Easter
  4. Globally over 780,000 cases of coronavirus, 37,000 deaths
  5. EU states losing 3% of GDP a month, IMF says
  6. Fruit pickers need to cross borders too, EU says
  7. Former Slovak minister to become EU envoy on Kosovo-Serbia
  8. Hungary's Orban wins rule-by-decree vote in parliament

This is the (finally) approved European Commission

MEPs gave the green light to the entire new European Commission during the plenary session in Strasbourg - but with the abstention of the Greens and a rejection by the leftist group GUE/NGL.

Magazine

Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us