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Another presidency
by Thanos Kalamidas
2007-01-20 09:58:38
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Six months ago when the Finnish Prime Minister Mr. Matti Vanhanen was talking about the priorities of the Finnish EU presidency, he emphasized many times that one of the main issues was going to be the European Constitution and in a way he did so by making all the member states agree that the Constitution was very important.

Vanhanen reminded them that somehow Europe should escape from the deadlock following the negative reaction in France and Holland. Six months later we have a new president of the EU, Germany and the German chancellor in the first speech as president emphasizes that the European Constitution was “key for EU success” - I have very little doubt that we are going to hear the same six months later from Portugal!

Angela Merkel warned the other members that Europe faces a “historic failure” if it does not revive the deadlocked European constitution and she went even further by putting a target date of 2009 for the next European parliament elections. Just because I want to put everything here, she added that the EU was a success story embodying the continent’s values of freedom, variety and tolerance. She also included in her ambitious program progress on energy security, climate change, a new partnership agreement with Russia and greater peace efforts in Middle East!

Do all these sound familiar? For me I have had the chance to live in Finland and have often heard the Finnish P.M. Matti Vanhanen repeating these very same targets every week during Finland's presidency. During the six months of the Finnish presidency, Finland had to deal with all the above issues, either because she was forced into them like in the case of the Middle East with the Israeli invasion to Lebanon or by choice due to the peculiar relationship Finland has with Russia.

In both cases, Europe was numb and so late to react that they somehow lost any chance to show that it is an international force that people can trust. It took nearly a week of negotiations between the member countries to decide what stand they were going to take, while Mr. Blair had obviously forgotten that Britain is a European country and a founder EU member, which is why he was promoting the interests of the US administration probably hoping that the UK will become the 51st star on the American flag. At the same time, all networks around the world filled our screens with kids dying on the streets of Beirut.

Coming now to Russia, since Putin is connected with two issues that interest Europe, the Finnish government even caused controversy between the other member countries by inviting the Russian emperor twice, with no result either time! Russia continued playing the blackmail games with energy, Poland vetoed any agreement with currently unknown results and Finland was relieved to pass the problem on to Germany, since the Germans are financially involved with the energy problem and Russia.

Coming now to the principals and values for freedom, variety and tolerance, we have Mr. Sarkozy on one side and the new extreme-right party on the other. The Euro-Parliament now has Romania and Bulgaria, which have more ghettoes than all the European capitals and we live in a time when having a darker skin color and beard is enough to isolate you; that’s about our values.

I left until last the constitution. Obviously the two year period was not enough for the European leaders to understand that the problem is much bigger than just the reaction of the French and the Dutch. Actually, if the rest of the countries had the chance to hold a referendum a few surprises might have appeared, even from countries with a high acceptance for the life in EU.

The common currency worked in theory and two more countries are ready to follow Slovakia into the euro-era, but in practice the euro widened the gap between the poor and rich in Europe. In most of the European countries, life became up to 20% more expensive and the new currency gave the chance for opportunists to make a real profit and, of course, instead of strengthening the common currency, the UK often joins the dollar in the undeclared war against euro.

Talking about unity, I think it will take time for many to forget the provocatively separation of new and old Europe, or better the good guys and bad guys depending on what you wanted to follow…the UN's or the USA's orders.

Perhaps somebody should remind the EU politicians that a constitution for a country or an institution is there not to remind obligations but to guarantee rights. In this case, it is one of the supreme rights of European citizens to have information about what the constitution is all about. Instead of trying to pass it through the national parliaments under the cover of darkness, it would be much better if the governments and the European Commission would go to the people, explain the constitution and then listen to the people and their needs. Finally, they could then ask for their vote because democracy works like that.

So, with pompous announcements, like “key for EU success” and “Europe faces a historic failure”, Mrs. Merkel and the other leaders don’t help much. On the contrary, they remind the people that they have forgotten them!

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Harald Greib2007-01-21 00:51:16
The Constitution is dead. Let it lie.

For sake of accuracy:
it's Slovenia which is joining the Euro, not Slovakia.

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