Imagine you are the PM or a head of state of a EU member state and you are somehow a “euroskeptic”, “anti-European” or you just don’t care too much about the EU (actually the label is not so important in the end). How do you tell the others? How do you get your ideas across? What are your strategies to block or undermine EU initiatives? And more importantly: what are the results? In the last few months we could observe mainly 3 different anti-EU strategies of leading politicians:
1. The “loud” Kaczyński. Even though Jaroslaw Kacyinski is not around anymore he left a legacy. He was the rather clumsy conservative nationalist that attacked the EU regularly with rather weird claims often related to Germany and WW II. However, his strategy was based on a anti-EU philosophy that is opposed to any further integration and the fear that “Brussels” would undermine his ‘moral revolution’. But his focus on rather symbolic issues (day against death penalty, social charter) as well as the historical references did not help to form sustainable alliances within the EU. His biggest victory was without doubt the EU summit in summer and his harsh negotiations tactics using the veto threat over and over again.
Result: delay of decision-making reform in the new Treaty of Lisbon plus annoyed EU partners, but in terms of sustainability he was not successful: The new Polish government is trying to reverse things.
2. Gordon Brown, the “quiet one”: Well, it is still not quite clear what he thinks about the EU but he is clearly trying to ignore it. Or is he somehow ashamed of the EU? Apparently he thinks that the EU is just another multilateral organisation which also explains why he has overloaded his chief European adviser with other responsibilities (apart from being the EU adviser he is also the head of international economic affairs and the G8 sherpa). Not surprisingly, Brown has not been to Brussels since he became PM. Apparently he watered down a important EU speech by his foreign minister and killed a new European defense initiative. In order to protest against the attendance of Mugabe, he refused to participate in the EU-Africa summit. Overall, the claims of the opposition in the UK seem to dominate his mindset and could be an explanation for his rather cowardly behavior. He is not even planning to sign the new treaty during the official ceremony in Lisbon … probably he is afraid of seeing a photo of him (+ intimidating heading) in the Sun signing the treaty…
Result: not too much….yet. Overall, Gordon Brown seems ignorant, indecisive, in a way unpredictable but for sure without any vision for the future of the EU. At least he avoided a referendum on the new EU treaty in the UK even though that could also be Blair’s merit. Everything else Brown did regarding the EU surely weakened his position in the UK and in Europe.
3. Nicolas Sarkozy, the “hyperactive” one . He seems to follow a subtle approach with occasional outbursts. The French president manages to portrait himself as a big reformer and a pragmatic realist who is in favor of an effective EU. Considering that he has been in office for only a few months, the list of EU initiatives is already quite long, most of his ideas are not well thought through and usually disappear after a few days: He (or other governmental officials) attacked the ECB and the Euro and demanded more political influence. He proposed the creation of a wise men group to debate the future borders of Europe (or how to keep Turkey outside). At every EU summit he managed to change some terminology but without any legal implications (first the ‘undistorted competition’ clause, now the Turkey “membership”). Sarkozy also seems to like foreign policy but does not care about any joint EU strategy: he invited Gaddafi to Paris, he congratulated Putin after the Duma elections, he surprised everyone with the idea of a Mediterranean union (as usual, nobody knows the details). He (and his ex-wife) also took the credit for the release of the nurses from a prison in Libya despite the deal that the EU had already negotiated. Probably I forgot half of his plans already….Anyway, so far he gets what he wants. The question is whether he also gets it when big decisions need to be made.
Result: symbolic changes in EU terminology, a downgraded wise men group, and his European counterparts still hope that he calms down and learns to play the diplomatic game.
Since Jarsolaw Kaczyński is out of government and Brown and Sarkozy have only been in power for a few month the question is whether we can expect any far reaching EU reforms from them. Will other leaders be strong enough to convince them in the future to make some important decisions? Or to put it more bluntly: Who do you think will be more successful in blocking EU decisions in the future?