What autumn for the EU?

I have been around Brussels for long enough to remember how it feels around the EU institutions’ corridors on the first days of September. All the pending things start moving. The EP goes immediatelly into a plenary, the Commission starts getting questions again and has to work on the autumn package of reports and initiatives. The Council starts with the meeting of permanent representatives and the regular monthly Foreign Ministers reunions, known under an overly complicated abbreviation GAERC, are again on the schedule. Then comes the October informal EU top leaders summit, which repeats formally in December. In between there is all the budgetary debate for the year 2008 to be closed. And one Presidency (Portugal) ends on December 31st and another (Slovenia) starts on January 1st. But let’s have a look at few political issues the EU will mostly be busy with this autumn. Of course, selection is purely personal.

1. Just get it done…the Reform Treaty. The poor lawyers delegated by member states have been dissecting the first draft of the Reform Treaty already in August, for it to be ready in early september. You can already see the first version on-line (PDF). But don’t bother reading, it’s impossible to understand anything. A bit better is the framework IGC mandate (PDF) that the EU leaders agreed to a bit earlier in June. But most of the technicalities are already solved, the political points will be raised on the voting issue (Poland fights almost on its own for a postponment), the opt-outs of UK (which would allow them to “spoil” a bit the draft legislation they don’t like…), the role of the Charter of Fundamental Rights… All in all quite bring and dry for someone that has already been disappointed by the Constitutional ambition. The Reform Treaty will be a very modest improvement. Not very inspiring. Expect it to be solved by December. And then to be spoiled nicely by a referendum in the UK. I bet there will be one.

2. Kosovo will be biggest foreign policy challenge. For all the meetings on the top level until the issue is closed. If the troika (US, EU and Russia) does not break through with something acceptable to both sides, we will be up to an interesting end of the 2007. I doubt that a solution will be found before the Kosovar elections in November. Can Kosovo afford to call independence without the full support of the EU? Hm, I wouldn’t bet on this one, but would somehow feel that they have the right to do it. Those people have suffered for long enough and have all the right to their own state if they wish so. The problem is that on the top of Montenegro we will get another state in the Balkans. And historically, this has always been complicated. If they go alone, the Kosovars should get benevolent guidance on their way forward. Something like Bosnia and Herzegovina, without all the complications of a overly-federal structure. I would predict a partial compromise on a controlled independence by December. Not everyone will agree though.

3. Energy and relations with Russia. This is the long-term economic challenge. The Commission is now about to present a new Energy package deal that looks a bit defensive for Commission standards. Out of precaution the EU would like to prevent all the private EU energy companies to be taken over by the Russians. And I understand them to a certain extent. Principles are sometimes difficult to uphold and many EU leaders are getting nervous. On the other hand Russia has been equally tough on European companies investing in its energy sector recently.

4. Climate change. The Commission has to present the tough part of the committments of the EU. Who will contribute what to those 20% of renewables and to the lowering of C02. Expect interesting debates and lots of national trading…

In addition to these “front-page” issues the first draft Communication policy will be presented in late September or early October. The issues has been taken very seriously by the Commissioner Wallström, but not many people beyond her. It’s a pity, because the EU is absolutely everywhere and people should be better aware of it and be informed much better. Wishful thinking perhap, but in case of Reform Treaty referendums we’ll be in troubles again.

Anyway, will be a nice autumn, hopefully interesting stuff coming up. Just get the Reform Treaty out of the way. It has been on the agenda of too many meetings for too long.

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