Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Are they listening to themselves? - Part VIII

I suppose one cannot expect too much from a man who proudly proclaims that he is director of Forum Europe and secretary general of Friends of Europe. In other words, he runs not one but two front organizations for the EU and its Commission.

Nevertheless, Giles Merritt's piece in Tuesday’s International Herald Tribune is spectacularly entertaining. He, too, sings the praises of the new Commisison President and his Commission (which Barroso had not chosen, simply allocated jobs to).

Mr Merritt is particularly impressed by the speed with which Barroso had dealt out the portfolios: two weeks ahead of schedule, "something of a first in EU circles, where deadlines are routinely missed". True, but that is hardly a substantive point.

Furthermore, there are no second-class citizens among the Commissioners (only among everyone else, presumably, but what do a few thousand farmers in Eastern Europe matter, anyway). That does not explain the five Vice-Presidents but we must wait and see what will happen about those non-super-commissioners.

Above all, Mr Merritt wants Barroso to make sure that the Commission is not made the whipping boy of European governments. He is rather pained by the fact that in recent years power had seeped back to some extent to the member states’ governments. Of course, those governments had been elected as the Commission had not and still is not, but this detail does not worry Mr Merritt. Nor is he terribly upset by the fact that individual ministers wield power through the Council of Ministers over other member states, whose citizens do not really want them to do so.

Mr Merritt is hopeful:

Perhaps a new chapter is opening in which EU member governments [sic – not states] help raise public understanding of the Union instead of reinforcing national suspicions by systematically putting the blame on the EU.
Well, that rather depends what the blame is for. Sometimes the EU is guilty, sometimes it is not. But the fact remains that there is a good reason why member governments do not want to raise public understanding of the Union. Whenever people understand more about the EU’s workings, they turn against it. Better let sleeping dogs lie.

After all, Mr Merritt is not about to change his job description to the more accurate one of secretary general of Friends of the European Union.

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