Monday, 19 January 2004

The Achievements of the Prodi Commission

We learn that in February, Prof. Romano Prodi will resign from the position of President of the European Commission in order to return to Italy and run for office in the next Italian election leading the anti-Berlusconi leftist forces coalition. Prof. Prodi took office in the Commission in 1999 after the collapse of the Santer Commission, under the burden of the Cresson scandal. In taking office Prof. Prodi promised to serve transparency -- the lack of which led to the resignation of the previous Commission. Yet, transparency being generic and vague today, after four years of office, with the exception of Regulation (EC) 1049/2001 which allows citizens to have access to documents of the Council, the Commission and the Parliament, and which is far from being properly enforced by the Commission services, has made no other progress.

Regulation (EC) 1049/ 2001 on access to documents replaced a number of administrative provisions which were already ensuring citizens with the ability to receive a large number of documents.

However, according to a recent report of the European Ombudsman, Regulation 1049 is not properly applied by the Commission services which means that the Prodi Commission instead of adding to transparency it is deducting. The Prodi Commission had so far great opportunities to write history and certainly it did. History, however, is written at least a century after; otherwise it is not history but politics and therefore no one can historically judge the right and the wrongdoings of the Prodi Commission, but only politically. Therefore, besides the transparency black hole,we see four areas the Prodi Commission handled during its mandate: Euro introduction, Administrative Reform, Enlargement and Constitution.


The introduction of Euro was a great European achievement as it has put the real base for the union of Europe. The common European currency was perceived by Mr. Jacques Delors and Prof. Romano Prodi implemented the project. Yet, the issue was developed only technically without involving politics. That was wrong -- starting from the decision of the European Central Bank not to have paper denominations for one and two Euro. Also the fact that denominations of different value are of different sizes was a choice without political input.

For those two technocratic decisions of ECB, Europe is now paying with increased inflation. The whole thing stems from respect to the independence of the ECB. This is something that a politically-thinking and acting citizen cannot understand because the ECB is an institution at the service of people, not elected but self-reproduced, and therefore, it should be subject to the decisions of the political leadership of Europe in all aspects of their function.

The Euro has been successfully introduced and it works, but it can work even better. The ECB did not think in terms of politics or people’s psychology at designing the common European currency. That was a mistake which can be corrected. With the practical experience of our common currency, the ECB should redesign the Euro taking into consideration the political expediencies of the people of Europe and, it will be fine with us if they do follow the simple recipe of success. If you are not the first, follow the leader and in this case, instead of re-inventing the wheel copy the dollar.

Administrative Reform

The Administrative Reform ultimately adds to the European chaos and to this effect, it was an achievement. Indeed, chaos, lack of transparency and more chaos will eventually bring the European spring sooner rather than later. Outsourcing is one of the issues we have repeatedly criticised because we are convinced that it will deprive the Commission of its very best elements and ultimately will deprive the central European administration of thinkers, leaders with vision and policy makers. They all will be replaced by Anglo-American consulting firms who will deprive Europe of any “nerve.” But this is an old story.

The Reform has added to the introversion of the European Commission, and in this particular period that the Commission has less, probably much less, than a year’s time is made more evident. As you know, most of the Commissioners will not be reappointed and are looking as to how to ensure new jobs back home and at the same time they work to secure good posts to the staff of their cabinets.

This situation leaves the administration loose, without any political supervision and this is what makes the weaknesses of the Reform evident unless these very weaknesses were its real aim.

We try to find the value added benefited by the European Union by the much advertised Reform and we cannot see any. The heads of Units, who used to produce policies and were the real policymakers of the Commission, have been transmuted to bureaucrats, sort of “small accountants” and “small auditors” and the Directors concentrate their efforts to improve audits and secure their position.

Decentralisation, instead of rationalising procedures, is forcing everybody to do a little bit of everything. And policy making, and project management, and contracts, and evaluations, and controls, and audits. All that except the clean up of their offices. The real experts for accounting, auditing, etc, have disappeared.

The Commission is now busy with the new exercise of evaluation and rating, the famous staff CDR which takes a lot of time without adding anything serious.

Consequently, no time is left for real output and thus expectations of European citizens are left aside. Common sense seems that it is not any more as common, as it is commonly believed, and Commission services are less and less service-oriented.


The Enlarement of the Union was also perceived by Mr. Jacques Delors and apparently was the right move in the right direction. Yet it was pre-mature and will only add to the chaos of the central European administration making Euroscepticists happy in the sense that a disintegration of the European Union to them seems now more likely.

Yet, I am optimistic, very optimistic, because the European Union is a live thing, the newcomers will wake up the old Europeans who are sitting like sleepy, well-fed cats before the fireplace, secure over their wealth and achievements, without political “nerve” letting others take minor decisions as to whether invade Iraq or North Korea. Yes, the newcomers will come into the Union like young Turks with their ethics on corruption and mafia-type solutions to difficult problems, but don’t forget that chaos always brings order. It is the standstill situations that bring entropy and entropy as you know, brings death.


So far the Union has failed to agree on the Constitution but in Brussels it is business as usual and everybody is happy. The reason is that given the way the Union is shaped so far it does not need a Constitution. The Treaties are sufficient and efficient.

Indeed, Europe looks like a commercial association more than a political entity; it will never become a political entity unless it agrees over a common and defence policy as it has a common currency and unless it has a Commission of enhanced role which will be elected by the Parliament from members of the Parliament. Then there might be the need of a Constitution, even though we can take the example of the United Kingdom which is one of the most democratic countries on earth, probably the most democratic, and it does not have a Constitution. We do not need it.

It will be most useful, however, to consider what the real reasons are behind the failure of the efforts of Mr. Valery Giscard d’Estaing to produce a commonly accepted text.

Religion is one of the reasons and the roots of the issue are rather deep. The two Catholic countries of Europe, Spain and Poland (Italy is not considered by the Vatican as a Catholic-reliable country and it is correct), practically blocked the process because they wanted it to be clearly stated that Europe is a Union of Christian nations (Catholics, Protests and Christians), though the pretext was different. In this way Israel would be left out of potentially being an applicant country for EU membership. Israeli Jews are European Jews contrary to Arab Jews who are spread in large numbers all over the Middle East and live peacefully with other Arabs (Syria, Iran, Egypt, etc). Israeli Jews, being of European origin (Poland, France, Greece, Germany, etc) feel, and they are correct, that they belong to Europe and eventually they are Europeans.

The people of Israel are Europeans par excellance, no matter what Mr. Ariel Sharon and his cohorts do to convince us of the contrary, and they deserve to become EU members way before the former Soviets of Latvia and Estonia. Membership of Israel to the European Union is the only realistic reply to long-term existence of Israel in the Middle East because contrary to the US support, which is only military and depends on the expediencies of Washington DC, EU membership is a guarantee because Europe is the biggest business partner of the Arab world and has a political, not an imperial attitude.

Therefore, Vatican versus Jewish lobbying was where the EU Constitution got stuck. Think of it and remember that Europe needs Israel as much as Israel needs Europe.

Source: New Europe

No comments: