EU: Committee of wise-men and its whereabouts…

Not really a headline news anymore, but might become one of them again – Sarko’s idea of the “committee of the wise-men”. Here is what he suggested:

“I call on the 27 to create a Committee of Wise Men by the end of this year, made up of ten to twelve members at very high level, similar to the committees chaired by Werner, Davignon and Westendorp and the Delors Committee, to address this simple but no less crucial question: “What kind of Europe should we have in 2020-2030 and what should its missions be?””

Besides a very general point that such committees rarely produce something that already existing institutions wouldn’t, I have other concerns. And here Sarko helps a bit. He was honest enough to link the issue with his opposition to Turkey straight from the start. And for those that didn’t understand how this would be then translated into EU operations, see the results: France blocks progress in accession talks with Turkey. It has just been made semi-public that France will not support the opening of 5 new chapters that would give the impression to the public that Turkey is indeed on the way to become full member of the club. Just how subjective this is, doesn’t matter, but it has a direct political impact.

The rest of the EU leaders, about to gather tomorrow in Lisbon and finish the Reform Treaty negotiations, have to react. The first voices from the EU capitals were diplomatically conditional. They went from more general worries and questions (about the composition and mandate of such a group) to clear opposition. Pragmatically it’s of course difficult to oppose to its establishment, since there’s not much to lose with it, but there’s much to gain = progress with Turkey. And back to business as usual.

But there is a more principled objection behind. First, as said above, such groups should avoid being formed in the first place. An example of elitist politicizing most of the time. Secondly, giving in to its establishment naturally means agreeing on the mandate. This group could in principle take the visionary leadership away from the existing one – we can debate if there’s any. But it could take away few powers still in the hands of a watered-down Barroso, who still has his bright moments. At it could of course sideline the European Parliament and those national leaders that still have the courage to speak strongly about “European interest”. Thirdly, the group could then write down something that would please some and annoy the others. How much independence would such a group – appointed by member states – have? Close to none on innovative solutions (e.g. federalization of the EU), a bit on consensus issues (energy, climate…). Fourth, the report might end up in the dustbin, proving a big waste of energy and resources.

So, will we see such a group? My bet will be yes, simply because there is little use spending energy fighting against the new French President on something as pointless as this. Sarko will get his group more or less fixed in December at the European Summit, to close off the year in beauty. He will have annoyed many of his colleagues and the selection of people will prove painful. But the Turkish saga will continue and the EU will not find a miraculous roadmap (one of the 1000s we have already).

Visionary politics should be done by those elected to govern, not by those labelled wise.

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