Wednesday

2nd Dec 2020

European leaders shy away from easier decision-making

EU leaders have made no moves to ease the decision-making process in the sensitive justice and home affairs area despite the best efforts of the Finnish EU presidency and the European Commission.

Following a two-day summit in Brussels, the veto-based system will remain in place – a set-up that has seen the EU make only painfully slow process in its anti-terror and security legislation, a drawback particularly highlighted in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorism attacks in the US.

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  • No through road for the would-be veto scrappers (Photo: EU Commission)

"There is not yet agreement on the best way to move forward," said commission president Jose Manuel Barroso but added that there was consensus that something needed to be done.

Finland had used its time at the political helm of the bloc to push for a scrapping of the veto in this area – a move which would first require the backing of all member states.

Admitting defeat on Thursday evening, Finnish prime minister Matti Vanhanen was only able to announce that leaders had "renewed [their] commitment" to making the decision-making process easier.

Several states are against the move. Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said "We do not have the support of the public to go through with this via the passarelle [a clause in the current treaties that would allow the change provided all member states agree]."

Similarly, Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern, when asked about whether the summit was the last chance for any move in this area, suggested it was adding "sometimes it takes people longer to see the light than it should."

Blow to Barroso

Meanwhile, a British spokesperson told EUobserver yesterday "We are prepared to give up the veto on some security issues where it makes sense but not on the whole justice and home affairs area where our national sovereignty is concerned."

This fits in with the views of the incoming EU presidency, Germany, which has indicated it does not want to make this major institutional change when it is try to revive the EU constitution.

"We say it wouldn't make much sense at a time when we are trying to get agreement on the constitution," said Germany's top EU diplomat Wilhelm Schoenfelder recently.

Practically, this is likely to mean that all decisions on areas such as introducing new anti-terror laws are going to continue to require the approval of all member states for at least another two years.

The failure to get any movement on this issue is also a blow to Mr Barroso's much-vaunted citizens' agenda. Removing the veto in justice and security areas was a central plank of a citizen-friendly initiative unveiled by the commission in May under which they argued that a series of polls have shown that citizens are in favour of more EU action in this area.

Immigration

At the same meeting, EU leaders promised to step up their commitments on a common immigration policy with Mr Barroso saying he was "very happy with the conclusions" as it "makes no sense in a common space...to have 25 different policies on migration."

They also agreed to extend the "capacity" of the bloc's struggling border agency Frontex and hold an EU-Africa summit in Lisbon in the second half of next year with migration the main topic on the agenda - this follows a summer which saw thousands of African migrants trying to reach the EU via the bloc's southern shores in Spain, Italy and Malta.

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