Saturday 19 December 2009

Copenhagen & the incapable European Union

I wake up this morning and I see that yesterday's minimal compromise in Copenhagen finished just close to a failure, in line with the failures of the European Union.

The pictures from the negotiations of the "world leaders" show Obama and Wen confronted with Merkel, Sarzkozy, Barroso and the Swedish prime minister Reinfeldt in charge of the EU Council presidency. The pictures show the EU of the many faces, and nobody knows whether they show the EU of the single voice.

The minimal compromise presented to the plenary by the group of 30 leaders including Reinfeldt and Barroso exhibits that the European Union is not able to march ahead on the world stage among 200 countries, to foster agreements that would show us being a positive player, an international agent of change.

The leadership failure of the Danish prime minister as conference president shows a member state of the EU that makes the Union look unprepared, pars pro toto.

The fact that leaders leave the Summit before the deal is finally agreed underlines their lack of judgement, their inability or their unwillingness to lead.

It is a large international meeting and the new European leaders - Ashton and van Rompuy - were not yet present, at least not visibly. The EU appears confused and confusing looking at how it dealt with the Summit, and a clear leadership inside the Union did not seem to emerge.

The question is: Will the EU be able to appear differently in the future, at similar occasions, with a well coordinated External Action Service backing the VP/HR Ashton and a European Council President van Rompuy who is able to stand in the front lines, negotiating for the Union while knowing to keep the many faces of EU leaders together and behind him.

Will there be an EU of fewer faces but clearer messages?

I have doubts. Ashton and van Rompuy look exactly like the two personalities who wouldn't be able to keep the EU crowd together while representing the Union as a strong player at such summits.

We will see as much confusion and as few leadership in the future as we have witnessed during these days of Copenhagen - because the leaders of the nation states prefer confusion over outcome, national pride over effectiveness. And van Rompuy and Ashton are too weak to change this.

The Copenhagen Summit, despite the fact that the world "took note" of the minimal compromise from yesterday evening, has displayed the incapable European Union, the one that knows to play blame-games but that doesn't know to work effectively, the Union that raises doubts whether the Lisbon Treaty will bring any changes to the better in the near future, both regarding leadership and outcome.

(Updated at 11:07)


Chris M said...

Copenhagen has failed. The UN has failed to address the most important crisis in human history. This is now the time for sanctions, boycotts and embargoes. A new alliance is needed. An alliance of hope and peace and justice must be built to oppose the axis of pollution, extinction and self destruction.

Filip Schwartz Kirkegaard said...

"The leadership failure of the Danish prime minister as conference president shows a member state of the EU that makes the Union look unprepared, pars pro toto."

Hi Julien, the link for you posted did not work. I want to find out in what way the Danish prime minister failed as a conference president!

- Filip (Danish) ;-)

Julien Frisch said...

Hi Filip,

I have replaced the broken link to a German source with an English language article that describes the failure more in detail.


french derek said...

The meetings that were necessary to a decision were taken under UN rules - ie there had to be a consensus. What made things more difficult for the Danish chair was that there was another meeting running in parallel, where world leaders were accompanied by their ministers, plus outsiders (advisers or whatever). On top of that, many national leaders (of African and S American nations amongst others) were excluded from such meetings. This was a recipe for chaos, allied to real feelings of "second-class" treatment - which was the result, as we now know.

The best view I can offer is that, notwithstanding the "agreement" reached at the end of this conference (after many leaders had left, as you note), the EU could forge ahead, in line with their previously agreed target proposals. They would be able to negotiate separate, bi-lateral agreements with different other groupings (especially the new Mexico group and BRIC countries not included there), Russia, and the US. They could/should impose their standards on manufactured goods imported into the EU, etc.

All of such type of proposals would, necessarily, require further internal EU debate (not sure whether decisions would need to be unanimous).

If the EU really is serious about its climate concerns, then this would be the way to demonstrate it.