Failure in December – but success in June! At their just-concluded Brussels summit the European Union’s now twenty-five members finally accepted a draft to put forward to their constituent parliaments and/or voters as the new European Constitution. Perhaps this summit’s productive result can be ascribed to the rotating EU presidency being held now by Bertie Ahern and the diplomatically-astute Irish, whereas Italy and Silvio Berlusconi were in charge last December – the Council presidency will cease to rotate this way once the new Constitution is enacted, by the way – or maybe it was all due to the new governments in place in Spain and Poland, the two “medium-sized” EU states that were the principle obstacles to progress at the last summit in December. One thing is sure, though: France and Jacques Chirac were once again in the middle of the goings-on, and so a review of French reporting and comment is appropriate. (Tony Blair was also a leading protagonist – or at least according to the French press, as we shall see – but I’ll let you read the on-line British papers about that yourself – and pay for it, in the case of The Times.) (more…)
Today’s on-line Le Monde goes deeper into the question of who will succeed Romano Prodi at the beginning of next year as EU Commission President, putting forth five candidates in all under a link Les cinq prétendants: “the five claimants,” or even “the five pretenders” if you like.
(I simply reported yesterday on Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt being tipped as the likely successor by the Czech business newspaper Hospodárské noviny. By the way, I can’t give you any link to this Le Monde article, because the five putative candidates are presented in turn by means of a pop-up picture gallery, with underlying comment that is presented for such a short time that you can barely read it before it disappears for the next picture. So those of you who can read French, but slowly, you’ll have to give up on this one and simply go with what I can report to you below.) (more…)
The Czech Republic’s leading business newspaper, Hospodárské noviny (yes, of all sources) has tipped the successor to Romano Prodi as President of the European Commission when the present Commission’s term of office expires at the end of this year: Guy Verhofstadt, currently Belgian prime minister. Described in the article’s lead as a “Euro-optimist and centralist,” Verhofstadt is said to have strong support for the job from both French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. (It helps that Verhofstadt, from the Dutch-speaking half of Belgium, also speaks fluent French. I’m not aware whether he speaks German.) In days gone by those two endorsements would have been all that it took to get the job, even in the teeth of what the article calls British “reluctance” towards him and even American distrust. But the recent addition since then of ten new member-states, who have shown themselves unwilling simply to blindly fall in line with the dictates of the Franco-German EU “motor,” may turn out to change this dynamic – although the article also reports that the new member-states have all uniformly had good experiences with Verhofstadt. (more…)
Now that we’ve already covered German reporting and commentary on Jacques Chirac acting to represent German interests during the second day of the European summit in Brussels (today, in fact), let’s look at the French side. Another day’s passing has even allowed the time for more detailed, nuanced coverage to spring up in the French press, and so I concentrate on these recent articles. (more…)
Yes, I’ve managed to kick my recent Danish fixation. And yes, that EU Constitutional Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) got underway this past weekend, starting with a one-day EU summit meeting on Saturday attended by heads of state and/or heads of government of all 15 current EU members, the 10 members-states which will join the EU at the beginning of next May, and 3 other states slated to join somewhat later as well (namely Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey). They were welcomed by current EU President Silvio Berlusconi, who called for an “act of will” from out of the assembled delegations, to come up with a version of the Constitution acceptable to all by Christmas. As President, Berlusconi got to speak first, and got to speak a little longer, and he was followed by five minutes’ remarks from European Commission president Romano Prodi, then European Parliament president Pat Cox, then from leaders of each of the 28 national delegations. “After everyone had spoken, basically nothing had been said, much less discussed,” comments Die Zeit’s article on the proceedings, Strength-of-Will, At Least up until Christmas, which, although I’m indebted to it for many of the above details, I found otherwise disappointing in its low quotient of actual analysis.
Maybe it was just too early to be able to say anything truly profound. Those heads of state/government couldn’t hang around for long – they’re a busy bunch of Euro-men and -women – meaning that it was their representatives, generally the foreign ministers, who were left behind to roll up their sleeves and start getting into the details. I’ve found good coverage about this part – the rest of the story, so to speak – in a series of articles from the Belgian on-line Gazet van Antwerpen. (more…)
Belgium finally has that new government, after a month of negotiations between the various political parties following the general election of mid-May. And one of its first acts has been to put forward legislation which would replace the “law of universal competence” about which so much has been written in these web-pages – a somewhat extraordinary law which, back during its strapping youth, could be used by anyone, from anywhere, to bring suit in a Belgian court against anyone, from anywhere, for alleged genocide, violations of human rights, and that sort of thing. While it lasted, it provided for great political theater – with personages such as Ariel Sharon and Donald Rumsfeld wondering whether it was safe for them to even set foot on Belgian soil, and Belgium’s hosting of NATO headquarters thrown into doubt – but it has finally met its end – at least so it seems. (more…)
There goes another one of my favorite weblog-entry subjects! The Belgian government is now in the process of modifying its infamous “genocide law” (formally known as “law of universal competence” – the law that used to allow criminal complaints from anyone, from anywhere, against anyone, from anywhere, whom they could charge with crimes against humanity) so that it more-or-less conforms to the sort of legislation most other countries have for the prosecution against those sorts of serious crimes. Crucially, with the changes that are now being added either the accuser or the accused must be of Belgian nationality or must have at least lived in Belgium for three years. (EuroSavant recently had the occasion to discuss this law, and the displeasure it was prompting among American officials, here.) (more…)
Returning to its non-English-language roots, EuroSavant today examines reactions to the unveiling of the draft EU constitution on the Continent (or “in Europe,” as certain British newspapers are wont to call that land mass stretching out on the other side of the Channel – as if they don’t happen to be part of it, legally, administratively, and even historically). And yes, loyal and long-standing €S readers, we first consider France. Surely there everyone is firmly on the side of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the Constitutonal Convention’s president, and his draft document. (more…)
Belgium provided the locale for this week’s meeting of the German, French, Belgian, and Luxembourgian heads of state to discuss the new European defense initiative. What do the Belgian papers have to say? (more…)
The heads of state of France, Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg met yesterday in Brussels to launch a new European defense initiative for a multinational force to flesh out the European Union’s foreign and security policies. Presidents Chirac and Schröder and Prime Ministers Verhofstadt and Juncker took pains to emphasize that they were not acting against NATO nor against that alliance’s senior partner, the United States.
Of course, besides Luxembourg, it is true that these were the European countries in the forefront of opposition to America and its “coalition of the willing” as they undertook their assault on Iraq. And many do intrepret this as an anti-NATO gesture – the Times of London‘s foreign editor Bronwen Maddox speaks of a “direct hit on Nato” and “payback time” for these four countries. What do the countries involved have to say for themselves? (more…)