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Sarkozy strikes again: EU of the “wise” instead of the citizens

, by Peter Matjašič

The European Union (EU) plans to establish a “Council of the Wise,” based on a suggestion by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. This promises to be a great way of making Europe more transparent and equipped for the challenges of the 21st century by using methods of the past. Instead European leaders should rather listen what the young people of Europe have to say and then act!

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As a federalist believing in transparency, democracy and a united Europe of citizens I couldn’t agree more with the German columnist Martin Winter, who recently expressed his outrage over the proposal in the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung with the following reasoning: “Instead of tossing Sarkozy’s suggestion in the trash where it belongs, the 27 member states are now creating a ’Think Tank Horizon 2020-2030’. The ridiculous name reflects the senselessness of the project. Europe does not need sages to tell them what challenges lie ahead. No retired statesmen and women, or top business managers, are needed to find a new European idea. Global challenges and European visions were openly and fully discussed, after Joschka Fischer’s Humboldt speech in 2000 and during the convention for designing a constitution. What Europe really needs is politicians who answer essential European questions themselves, not diverting them into working groups; politicians, who are ready to take risks for this, and to withstand the pressure of conflicts. But there are just not enough politicians of such mettle…”

We have seen the lack of greatness of our today’s leaders in Europe bluntly demonstrated back in Spring 2007 in the Berlin declaration on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Rome Treaties. A document that doesn’t even deserve the solemn name declaration if one examines its content. Especially compared to the well elaborated and future-oriented youth declaration produced by young Europeans from all 27 Member States in Rome.

No retired statesmen and women, or top business managers, are needed to find a new European idea!

After the broad agreement among European politicians, bureaucrats and civil society alike back in Nice in the year 2000 that the intergovernmental method is passé, a new mode of consultations in the form of a convention was brought into life. But after the results of that successful experiment were first altered by an IGC and then rejected by the French and Dutch voters in a national referendum, the convention method was used as a scapegoat and not only did we witness a return to the IGC-method, but we even got the so-called Sherpa-method which arguably produced results but had the worst democratic deficit in the history of the entire European integration to date. And now we shall be blessed with a Council of Wise to continue this trend of going away from the citizens instead of becoming closer to them.

But as it seems the facts might be proving me wrong as a survey published by the German Bertelsmann foundation on 16th October might suggest. According to this survey 67% of the French, 65% of the Germans and 47% of the British (in comparison to 40% who reject the idea) are in favour of the creation of a “Council of the Wise” suggested by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in July. Even worse, the suggestion apparently receives the approval of all the younger generations. I very much doubt the validity of these results as we all know statistics are prawn to manipulation.

Bottom line is that the methods preferred by our European leaders are outdated and give priority to efficiency above democracy. I want to see a deepening of the European integration, a further development towards a true political union with federal features, but this can come about only in connection with the citizens and not detached from them.

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Image:

- Sarkozy and Barroso depicted in a French illustration; source: Placide

Source:

- The EU creates a “Council of the Wise”, press review from euro|topics; click here

- Council of the Wise, news ticker from Fondation Robert Schuman

Further reading:

- Before the EU Summit: The Germans, French and British want a “Council of the Wise”; click here

- article in French: Un “comité de sages” pour l’UE : une idée de (pas)sage ? click here

- article in French: Plaidoyer pour une Constituante. click here

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