November 2000

EU "lacks vision"

There are no leaders with a vision to push the European Union forward. This claim is made in a column by veteran commentator Olli Kivinen (Helsingin Sanomat, 9 November 2000). He thinks that none of the major European leaders have been able to give the EU a sense of direction.

Kivinen quotes a source in Brussels who says that only two countres, the Netherlands and Finland, have leaders with an ability to put forward European visions with clarity. They are Prime Ministers Wim Kok and Paavo Lipponen.

"However, small and medium size countries do not have an influence comparable to that of large member countries, even if small countries' leaders can help to solve the kind of crises which the Union is currently going through", Kivinen writes.

The columnist notes that there is widespread disappoinment in Brussels in Romano Prodi's ability to give the EU strong leadership. Kivinen then analyses the large countries' viewpoints and finds them lacking in clarity as well.

"France's behaviour during its Presidency has destroyed the illusion that it is a genuinely communitarian country. In reality it has always strictly advanced its own interests and the EU has to a great length been the instrument with which it has tried to bolster its faded power and greatness."

Germany, according to Kivinen, lacks a sense of direction.

"During his two years in power, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has not been able to become a leader of European scale. There are doubts in Central Europe about his ability even in future to fulfill the European boots of his predecessors. From many quarters in Brussels one hears a sigh that Germany does not seem to know what it wants and where it is going."

The third large country, Britain, remains on the sidelines, Kivinen says.

"Prime Minister Tony Blair has made thoughtful and to-the-point speeches on European policy, but the Britons' strong doubts about the EU and opposition to a common currency tie his hands. Another country with a similar handicap is Sweden where opposition to the EU and Prime Minister Göran Persson's weakness are the determining factors.

"The EU cannot be led by a country which by not sharing the common currency is not part of the core of the EU. Britain tries to emphasise its position by putting weight on the common defence policy of the EU. The speeches, however, sound a bit hollow; Britain is the most Atlantic country of the EU and in reality relies, in questions of defence, on co-operation with the United States even more than other members."

Kivinen thinks that this lack of leadership is especially regrettable at a time when the EU needs to reform its structures. The current Inter-governmental Conference lacks vision, he says. In more and more countries political leaders seek safe ground in the centre.

"As a result, we have teflon politicians of varying degree who see remaining in power as their most important aim. They avoid everything -- like questions of integration -- which stirs strong emotions among the voters."


See also:

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