Radical politics

Series Title
Series Details Vol 7, No.16, 19.4.01, p11 (editorial)
Publication Date 19/04/2001
Content Type

Date: 19/04/01

LUXEMBOURG is not exactly renowned as a hot-bed of radical ideas. The tiny Duchy is best known for its bankers, low taxation and, there is no polite way of saying this ... of being rather boring.

But lest Viviane Reding leads a delegation of "lively" Luxembourgers to the doors of European Voice, it should be pointed out that at least one leading light from the country has shown he is ready to storm the barricades of EU institutionalism.

Jacques Poos, Luxembourg's former deputy prime minister, is seeking a complete overhaul of the Council of Ministers. The respected MEP says the decision-making process in the Union's most powerful body has become ineffective and unfocused, blaming poor attendance by some foreign ministers and an unwieldy number of council groups.

Poos wants the number of ministerial groups slashed from 20 to eight so that foreign ministers can have a more comprehensive overview of the Union's work. On the face of it, that does not seem a bad idea.

Except that the council presumably benefits from the more in-depth approach that can be offered by ministers who are working on their specific brief. But then Poos gets seriously radical. Foreign ministers should spend two days every week in Brussels, he says, and if they fail to turn up they should be 'named and shamed'.

Tough words - but maybe not such a good idea when it comes to convening extra meetings. Foreign ministers' first loyalty must surely be to their member states - and the voters who elect them.

Their job at the Council of Ministers is crucial. But spending 40% of their week in Belgium (and that excludes work outside the EU) will not result in greater efficiency or transparency into the workings of the European legislative machine.

It will simply annoy people - and not just the voters back home. An enforced presence two days every week will lead to soaring costs and an overburdened administration. That said, the ministers should turn up every month and show more courtesy than to hold press conferences while their colleagues are still deliberating. So name and shame by all means, Mr Poos.

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