National ego

The EU summit starting today is due to discuss three issues that show the difficulty of overcoming national interests for the sake of European integration. First is the question of decision making. The 2000 Nice Treaty specified each member state’s voting power, but impractically. Spain and Poland, which now threaten to veto the new constitution, were given 27 votes each, compared to 29 for Germany and France, which are much bigger. Voting rights should not be reduced to the population criterion, but this should be taken into account. Under the draft convention, decisions must be approved by a majority of member states also representing at least 60 percent of the total EU population. Madrid and Warsaw must not let their national egos torpedo this balanced solution. A second issue concerns the makeup of the European Commission. The «one country, one commissioner» principle could create practical problems but will give smaller states the sense of enjoying an equal say in the Commission. Politically speaking, this is important as it will reinforce the bloc’s cohesion. In the future, this could be succeeded by some rotating system allowing small nations that are not represented to send a sub-commissioner instead, but who would have no voting power. European defense planning is the third controversial issue. On the one hand, there are the reservations by the Atlanticists and, on the other, the refusal of the four neutral states (Sweden, Finland, Austria and Ireland) to agree on a mutual defense commitment among EU members. British participation will add to the operational efficiency of the plans but could undermine them politically – the US is already playing a role in this. EU history is one of compromise. This weekend may see more of it as notions of a multispeed Europe are gaining ground.