Jan Macháček

Hledání

Výsledky hledání

Czech Business Weekly

All pastry, little filling in the European Union pie

02. 07. 2007
If there’s one European institution that should never lose the bigger picture, it’s the European Union (EU).

Yet looking at the self-congratulatory hubbub generated last week by the European Council’s approval of a reform treaty designed to make the bloc work more smoothly, one might think its main purpose is to provide a training school for member countries to perfect negotiating skills.

True, this deal emerged after a long, frustrating string of failures, so a certain amount of relief was in order. But analysts with a truly critical eye should take a step back and, rather than reviewing what bargaining tactics were employed by the various states, they should properly evaluate the outcome.

Intellectualizing over which particular countries are left with what particular votes, who holds the real power at the center and what incursions have been made on sovereignty, and so on and so on, is just no good. What we really need to work out is where the EU is heading exactly. What are its goals, ideals and ambitions? How will this new treaty make a difference? Will Europe become more flexible and readable, and stronger in negotiating with the rest of the world?

Pseudonational interests must not be allowed to distract from wider, common concerns. If the U.S. was constantly unable to move forward because of rotating presidency disputes between Montana, Oregon and Ohio it would become a laughingstock. With the globalized world producing future superpowers like India and China, how can the EU think (presuming, it actually does think over these things) about competing 50 years from now, when it constantly discusses the relationships of institutions and the power formats of national states?

After all, there are plenty more pressing concerns to be getting on with. To name but a few: backing the American free-trade lobby, bringing a decisive influence to the World Trade Organization, liberalizing EU-U.S. trade, reaching American standards for top quality education, including the creation of common European elite universities, and investing heavily into research and development, an area of absolute priority if Europe is to win against the ever-tougher global competition.

The renewed assertiveness and aggressiveness of Russia should be another call to real action for the EU. Only European powers arranged as a bloc can stand up to the Russian threat, by unifying policy in energy security and other pivotal areas.

Celebrating negotiated victories for national interests is no way forward. Such an approach can only be regarded as a triumph of shortsightedness and short-termism over the long-term investment and vision that could lead to prosperity for all.

There may be tears

Between now and August’s parliamentary second round debate on the public finance reform package, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek risks seeing a sorry scene developing on the MPs’ playground. The MPs, who’ve been told they can suggest changes to the package, might well pull at it from all sides and tear it apart.

Things should have been done differently. The MPs should have gone first. They should have suggested their changes, then the government should have come in with its own.

Civic Democrat (ODS) deputies are now pushing for lowered income tax with no spending cuts. The PM and his finance minister should have warned the MPs that if they messed around with the package too much it would lead to their resignation.

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