Step in the right direction

Series Title
Series Details Vol.7, No.30, 26.7.01, p11 (editorial)
Publication Date 26/07/2001
Content Type

Date: 26/07/01

IT'S been a dramatic week for the European Union.

First there was the EU's high-profile success at forging international consensus on the Kyoto climate-change treaty in Bonn. Then some rather sobering Eurobarometer readings showing just how far Europe's citizens have drifted from their 'leaders' on major issues such as enlargement and the euro. Finally, yesterday, a stunning public statement from the European Commission and its president, Romano Prodi, admitting that it is failing to serve the public.

Much will be made of the Union executive's confession in its White Paper that "many people are losing confidence in a poorly understood and complex system to deliver the policies that they want". The Union, Prodi allowed, "is often seen as remote and at the same time too intrusive". The oft-maligned President deserves credit for this mea culpa - for finally and clearly responding to a series of public relations body-blows that started with the Irish vote against ratifying the Nice Treaty and the

Commission's ham-handed response to it, intensified in the streets of Göteborg and culminated in this week's sobering poll results. But there are signs the Commission still doesn't get the point. For example, the White Paper proclaims that the Union should adopt a "less top-down approach". Perhaps it would have been too shockingly democratic to offer to be more "bottom-up", but at least the authors could have thrown the citizen a bone. Even the document's name, the White Paper on Governance, has an aristocratic ring to it. There are other problems. The twin, albeit honourable, goals of simplifying the EU legislative process and including more participants in it are contradictory.

And cynics will have a field day with the relentlessly turgid language and rampant double-speak of Commission press releases and reports, of which this White Paper has no shortage. But there's no denying that, just as with the hard-won Kyoto protocol, it's a step in the right direction. Prodi is right to point out that, since its inception, the Union has rarely been given credit for its successes - nothing less than "fifty years of stability, peace and economic prosperity" - and plenty of blame for its failures. The question now is whether he and other EU leaders can do anything about it.

Subject Categories
Record URL