Spotlight on Geopolitics

The latest EU summit – which took place yesterday in the medieval town of Sibiu, formerly the seat of power of the German community from Transylvania – was arguably one of the weirdest on record.

The official agenda of the EU leaders was to discuss the future of the European Union. This was a strange undertaking, to say the least, since many of those present were outgoing politicians. We can list Tajani, Juncker as well as Merkel in this category. Also, having the Union’s future discussed by so many childless leaders… beside being highly ironic, it could give one the impression that the EU might not have a future after all.

The secondary agenda of the summit, however, seems to have mattered more than the official one. Joseph Daul, the president of the European People’s Party group, Antonio Tajani, of the European Parliament, Jean-Claude Juncker together with Romanian president Klaus Iohannis have viciously attacked the Romanian government. This was a stunning counter-performance indeed on the part of such important politicians. They could not bring themselves to display a minimum of tact and respect for the government of the host country, even if the latter belongs to a different political family than the Popular Party. In so doing, they have aggravated the existing divisions within the Romanian electorate, which had already led to street violence last August.

To local onlookers, the most grotesque performance belonged to their own President, who attacked his country’s government in front of his foreign guests and with their help. I have witnessed many important events in my life, but I have to admit this has been the most mindboggling performance put on by a bunch of so-called democratic politicians ever.

Guest after guest took turns at painting Romania as one of the most corrupt members of the EU – which is far from the truth – and the country’s government as one bent on affecting the independence of the judiciary. The Romanian president, who portrays himself as a champion of anti-corruption, had in fact used forged documents to illegally take possession of 2 houses in Sibiu whilst mayor of the city and was convicted by a Romanian court to return them to the state. He had also put pressure – via the secret services or key members of the judiciary – on the Romanian justice system to convict opponents who upended his neoliberal party’s electoral chances. He now cries wolf because he wants to shore up the electoral fortunes of his party on the 26th of May, and to get himself reelected this autumn, as well. After the Sibiu summit, that seems to me a forlorn hope.

Yes, the EU is badly in need of reform. This, however, has to start with a reform of the selection mechanisms of EU officials such as the Commission president and the head of the European Parliament. The EU cannot afford to appoint officials who attack the leadership of member states for ideological reasons. The EU would also do well to appoint to the top jobs experienced, pragmatic politicians, who will avoid threatening leaders of national governments simply because they refuse from time to time to accept Brussels’ initiatives or directives. In a community of sovereign nations like the EU still is, a refusal to comply is to be expected, and sometimes even welcomed, whenever the EU hierarchy loses touch with reality – like now – and needs to be brought down to earth by national leaders.

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