EU lives to die another day

By Alexandra Brzozowski and Beatriz Rios   

As exactly the time when Europe actually could prove its credibility and make it visible for the whole world, EU institutions have buried themselves in a trench war over the election of their new leadership.

In a typical Merkel manner, the German Chancellor ditched a question about the bad perception EU voters might get from watching the top job horse-trade carrying on since the European elections took place in late May.

EU leaders spent 21 hours of discussions, bilateral meetings and corridor talks on how to trash out the most important posts in the European Union – without achieving any results.

Asked what will be different the next day, when the leaders were due to resume talks, she answered laconically: “If we knew what should change tomorrow, we would have continued today.”

France’s President Emmanuel Macron put it even more bluntly: “We give an image of Europe that’s not a serious one.”

On the one hand, the message conveyed is that every EU leader, every political party and MEP ready to do what it takes, fight till the bitter end, including all-nighters, all for a good cause. All tailor-made for the domestic audience, but of course, with a European touch.

On the other, we see squabbles, discontent, petty arguments and political side-wars shining through the negotiations that are supposed to be about Europe’s future.

The average EU citizens either couldn’t care less or finds the current situation shocking, because it shows how entrenched member states are and how far we actually are from the much propagated common European sense. Not to mention ‘unity’ of the Union.

What lies in between and goes rather unnoticed is that this has turned into a fight for the soul of the EU institutions itself.

To be fair, the struggle between member states in the European Council and the European Parliament in this regard is not a new one. What is new is the opportunity for the European Parliament to grab the role of the power broker.

MEPs are expected to vote tomorrow to elect their new President. However, so far, only three out of the seven groups have nominated their candidates, amongst them Ska Keller for the Greens/EFA, Sira Rego for the GUE/NGL and Jan Zahradil for the ECR.

But there were rumours that the election could be postponed, even to the second plenary session im mid-July, or that the members of the Parliament could vote on an interim president until a final package is agreed by EU leaders locked-up in Brussels.

A move that would have seriously undermined the Parliament’s credibility, as it would give up its right to elect its own president.

“Looking at the law, none of those options are possible,” a Parliament official told EURACTIV when asked about such considerations.

As EU leaders so far could not agree on a common position towards the top job package, it is therefore the Parliament where MEPs might take the first step towards shaping the EU’s future, electing a new President tomorrow.

The election in the Parliament is set to take the whole of Wednesday – and night, if necessary.

But longer delays will nibble away at the EU’s credibility.

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