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  Dreams about the president of the European Union

Povilas Þielys
2008 11 17

Wprost photoInvasion of Russia to Georgia has revealed the problems of foreign policy of the EU. Certain politicians of the EU Member States have also acknowledged „the disability“ of the EU to form a common position and take joint actions in the critical situation, whereas political observers stated that ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon could change the situation.

After the Georgian events president of France N.Sarkozy expressed similar views in the daily Le Figaro. According to him, the instrumental institutions anticipated in the Treaty of Lisbon are: Chairman of the Council of Europe Leaders, and more powerful chief commissioner for common foreign and security policy.

Pursuant to the Lisbon Treaty, the chairman of the Council of Europe Leaders, referred to as president of the EU, would be an official elected for the period of 2,5 years. One of his key functions would be representation on common foreign and security policy issues of the EU.

Another novelty in the Lisbon Treaty is the chief commissioner for common and security policy, referred to as the minister of foreign affairs of the EU. His authorities would be wider in comparison to the current chief commissioner: he would coordinate actions not only of the EU Council, but also of the European Commission in the sphere of foreign policy.

Although it is not yet clear how the tasks for representation of the EU would be split between the „president of the EU“ and “the minister of foreign affairs of the EU“, political observers are convinced that the emergence of these positions would improve the EU integration in the field of foreign policy.  However, ratification of the Lisbon Treaty would hardly transform the EU into a unanimously speaking international player.

Coming back to the war in Georgia, the question arises on whether the EU could behave otherwise if the Treaty of Lisbon was effective. It is hard to believe that „president of the EU“ could act better than N.Sarkozy. The Russian leaders consider Paris one of the closest partners, therefore N.Sarkozy‘s mission in Moscow was respected.

Most probably the elected „president of the EU“ could also be respected if he was supported by all 27 EU Member States.  But if the Kremlin feels that the EU has no common position, it would consider „president of the EU“ as an official not able to „deal with matters“. If „the minister of foreign affairs of the EU“ was sent to Moscow for mediation reasons, the approach of the Russian leaders would also be the same.

As long as the EU Member States have different approach towards the threats, institutional changes would not contribute to the establishment of the common EU foreign policy.  For instance, in certain cases some EU states discerned the illegal Russian aggression, whereas the others could only see Russia‘s desire to protect its citizens. The EU states developing joint energy projects with Russia avoid criticizing the Kremlin.

For example, at the beginning of war in Georgia, prime minister of Italy S.Berlusconi called prime minister of Russia V.Putin and, instead of urging armistice and withdrawal of the army, supported the Russian position.  Later S.Berlusconi disapproved the idea of convening the meeting of the Council of Europe Leaders regarding the war in Georgia. Most probably S.Berslusconi’s actions were predetermined by the joint projects between the Italian energy company Eni and the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom.

Ownership separation between the energy producers and supply operators could help the EU and Moscow speak with one voice, since companies of separate EU Member States and Russia execute joint infrastructure development projects and conclude long-term energy supply agreements. They also include the South Stream Project of Eni and Gazprom, and the North Stream Project signed between the German E.O.N and Gazprom, and other projects. Separation of energy producers from operators could help the national or intergovernmental energy supply operators, which are competing for consumers, take care of the development of infrastructure, whereas for energy companies it wouldn‘t be expedient to get attached to the Russian suppliers via long-term agreements.

Everything could seem okay: the EU energy market is liberalized, the approach of the EU Member States towards Russia is uniform and common foreign policy with the eastern neighbor is pursued. However, the most powerful EU states – Germany, France and Italy – are against liberalization of the EU energy market.  It is obvious that interests of the national business have huge influence on the governments of the above countries.

Thus, one could only dream about the common EU foreign policy and „president of the EU“ who would be listened by the Kremlin.

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