Blog AnalysisEuropean policy

The revival of the rotating presidency. A good thing ?

Bratislava intends to make its presidency a point of support for the reconquest of Europe by the States (© NGV / B2 - The bridge of the Slovak national uprising)
Bratislava intends to make its presidency a point of support for the reconquest of Europe by the States (© NGV / B2 – The bridge of the Slovak national uprising)

(BRUSSELS2 in Bratislava) The assumption of the presidency by Slovakia after the Netherlands coincides with a strong return of the States to the community game. And the organization of an exceptional summit in Bratislava in mid-September must not be neglected.

For Bratislava, having the presidency of the European Union for the first time in its history is already an important act. The Slovak Prime Minister, Robert Fico, made this clear today to the international press (including B2) present in the Slovak capital. “ For such a small country as Slovakia, this is an exceptional event. We have done everything in our power to ensure that this presidency develops as well as possible. »

The organization of a summit of heads of state and government on September 16 in Bratislava, at '27' (without the United Kingdom) is, however, anything but trivial.

Since the Treaty of Nice, all summits are normally organized in Brussels. This is the result of a deal intervened at the end of the night between Jacques Chirac, the French president who then held the presidency of the European Union, and Guy Verhofstadt, then Belgian Prime Minister, making it possible to compensate for the Belgians for the loss of votes with the Netherlands, and also to put an end to a certain anarchy, of autonomous and far-left movements which made each formal or informal meeting of Heads of State and government the occasion for a confrontation. This was the case in Barcelona (under the Spanish presidency) but also in Genoa for the G7. The Nice summit will not escape the scuffles, also against a backdrop of tear gas and other broken windows.

This summit is thus the symbol of a double recovery. It is symptomatic of a desire among Heads of State and Government to regain control of European institutions, to have their say beyond European procedures. Citing the migration crisis and the problem of relocations, Robert Fico thus pleaded for “ that the Member States come up with their own initiatives, which will then be taken into account in the debate.

For the leaders of the East, it is therefore a question of not letting themselves be left behind, of not letting the Franco-German couple or even the founding countries, alone, set a direction for Europe. Robert Fico had already said it yesterday to the press: “The crucial decisions on the future of Europe cannot be defined by two or three Member States, nor by the founding States of the EU (…) The future of the EU can no longer be determined without the active participation of the States which joined in 2004 and 2007 ". He hit the nail on the head today for those who criticized Visegrad to consult among themselves before each summit meeting. “ Cooperation within the framework of the V4 (the Visegrad Group) is unique. It is useful for regional cooperation. It is based on essential values ​​that we appreciate. It will continue and will be deepened. It is completely normal for us to address common subjects, to try to coordinate our positions where possible, to defend our interests »

This meeting in Bratislava is essential for heads of state and government of all sides; it is finally a question of creating additional space, outside of Brussels. “  Our European councils are overloaded with topics that are on the agenda. And you have to prepare conclusions. Because you journalists are waiting behind the door for us to adopt conclusions. We don't have enough space for informal discussions », in other words political.

Comment: a common sense solution in my opinion. I have never been a big fan of single-city summits (or of single-presidency). This is undoubtedly a rational solution from an organizational level. But what we gain in organization, we lose in liveliness, in understanding, in political power.

If certain functions can be “unique” – for the Euro or foreign policy – ​​we cannot strip States of all the symbols of what Europe does. There is not a single people, a single state, a single voice, there is not even a single federation, it is an error to believe this. This is part of a false belief that “Brussels” decides everything, according to criteria that are difficult to understand, to say the least. There are peoples and States gathered together, united as closely as possible, which give legitimacy to European construction.

To say that this will definitely bring Europe closer to its citizens is undoubtedly utopian. But, beyond the philosophical argument, holding summits in a country with a rotating presidency has a big advantage: it makes the different governments responsible for their reappropriation of the European thing. It also contributes to penetration into the local or national media of these countries which will 'cover' the event, and therefore influence a certain European knowledge.

Ultimately, this meeting also marks a certain weakening of institutions such as the European Commission. It is a fact. But isn't the organization of such a meeting rather the consequence of this weakening, of its errors, with a stubbornness that is sometimes necessary but also sometimes outdated, than the cause of a slow unraveling of the community?

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

One thought on “The revival of the rotating presidency. A good thing ?"

  • Hughes Belin

    There is an urgent need to abolish European summits only in Brussels. Verhofstadt the federalist has done the worst thing for European construction: if he has brought it closer to the Belgians (or rather the people of Brussels who are fed up with these repeated summits that turn the city upside down – has a cost/benefit analysis been done after all these years?), he took it away from the Europeans. So we shouldn't be surprised to hear the same catchphrase: “it comes from Brussels!”. As Europe does not travel to other capitals, it has no reality for the peoples of Europe, CQFD. Thank you Mr Fico! (However, it should have been thought about a little before the British referendum)

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