Clashing visions

Europe’s disarray over picking a president for the European Commission reflects the difficulties that the 25 European Union members face in agreeing even on operational issues that will determine the future shape of the bloc. In the aftermath of the EU’s eastward expansion, opposition between the Franco-German axis and Britain is taking on a whole new dimension. The newcomers are no doubt more receptive to London’s Atlanticist perspective and a new bloc appears to be emerging inside the Union with the aim of thwarting the vision of the federalist duo. For its part, the Franco-German axis is dogged by domestic problems. The German chancellor in particular has lost popular backing at home and would find it extremely hard to promote radical change in Europe – a problem that is reflected in his failed bid to promote Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt for the Commission presidency. The only way out of the deepening crisis is the new European Constitution – despite the compromises that were needed for it to go through. Indeed, the treaty reduces the European policy areas subject to veto while introducing special majorities which allow the formation of mini-alliances in order to promote certain policies. However, British plans to put the text to a referendum two years from now is a blow to rather than a boost for the overall process, especially considering the overtly Euroskeptical mood among the British public.