The Lisbon Treaty entered into force some five years ago, when the financial crisis had already spread from the United States to the European Union. The crisis first struck some countries outside the eurozone, then attacked the heart of the economic and monetary union, with growing asymmetries between the countries in the single currency.
European leaders of the past had shown their vision, their common will in front of previous crises and their trust in the key role of the European Commission. On the contrary, the last financial crisis has prompted governments to scale down the EU powers, betraying the innovative spirit of the Lisbon Treaty.
The ineffectiveness of the measures taken up against the crisis – which in some cases have endangered the essential principles of representative democracy – and the perspective of a long economic and social recession confirm that the Treaty’s potential has been drastically weakened by the mutation of the financial framework.
EU policies in fieds such as energy, migration, industry and the way we produce, the fight against corruption and organized crime, the respect of the Charter on Fundamental Rights appeared virtually non-existent. The decision-making was put in the hands of governments alone, condemning the European Union to paralysis.
The persistence of the crisis and its effects on (youth) employment and social exclusion – in the lack of adequate responses – nourished populist parties and euro-opponents, increasing the number of their representatives in the newly elected European Parliament and producing a political earthquake in France and in the UK. They can count on more than two hundred MEPs and they will play a noisy role in the incoming legislature.
One could argue David Cameron and Viktor Orban were defeated in the European Council with the nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker to form the new European Commission. An embryo of parliamentary democracy is born through the innovative process to elect the new Commission. Andrea Bonanni (La Repubblica) described it as “a federalist swing”. Not quite. In the European Council’s final remarks the heads of State and government wrote down their guidelines for the “next institutional cycle”: 1. the European Council will wield a “regular monitoring” on its unprecedented five-year program to check if the other European institutions and the member States are coherent with it; 2. “the UK’s concerns on the future of the EU will need to be addressed”; 3. last but not least, the European Council “will consider” the process bringing to the next election of the Commission president in order to respect the Treaties. What should we do to maintain the “federalist swing”?
The European Parliament first takes the stage when it will (or won’t) confirm Juncker. To be the playmaker, the EP has to set the conditions for the confidence vote: a five years program negotiated among the Commission and its majority in the Assembly; a precise and firm commitment in order to use the financial mid-term review for a “New Deal”, founded on the EU’s own resources; the exclusion of commissioners belonging to parties which voted against the President; the distribution of portfolios according to a European logic and not the national ones.
To be the institutional winner, the European Parliament has however to re-open the constitutional building-site and take in its hands the “next institutional cycle”. It has the power to do it, it has the legitimacy to speak on behalf of the citizens, and it has the duty to alter the European course.
Pier Virgilio Dastoli chairs the Italian Council of the European MovementTAG: Europadoc Jean-Claude Juncker Movimento federalista europeo Parlamento europeo Trattato di Lisbona