October 2000

Large and small EU countries at loggerheads

The EU summit in Biarritz has exposed the simmering conflict between large and small member countries. Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen showed signs of irritation towards large EU countries after they demanded a reduction in the number of Commissioners. According to a report in Helsingin Sanomat (14 October 2000), Lipponen said that there is no rational basis for this demand. He could not understand why a Commission of 25 members should be worse than one of 20 members.

Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Britain would like to reduce the number of Commissioners which would mean that not every member state would have a Commissioner all the time. According to this plan, after the inclusion of Eastern European states in the EU the posts of Commissioners would be rotated between member countries. Small countries, however, want to retain their Commissioners. Small countries fear that they would not be included in the preparation of important decisions.

According to Lipponen, more important than the number of Commissioners is that the President of the Commission is up to his tasks. Helsingin Sanomat says that small countries think that large countries emphasise the issue of the size of the Commission in order to use it later as a bargaining tool.

In a commentary, Helsingin Sanomat says that if the EU Intergovernmental Conference ends up increasing majority decisions and the power of the Commission, the Union will be heading towards a federal state.

"Finland is demanding its own man in the Commission even if it loses voting power in the Council of Ministers. This shows that Finland is already anticipating development towards a federal state. Finland supports a strong Commission and considers a Commissioner's seat more important than the Council of Ministers. Sweden has chosen a completely opposite line. It wants to retain the strong position of the Council of Ministers. Prime Minister Göran Persson has even dared to utter the dreaded f-word. 'I don't believe in an EU based on a federal state', Persson declared at the beginning of October."

According to Mika Widgrén, Jean Monnet Professor at Turku Commercial University, large EU member countries should not be given more votes in the Council of Ministers. In an interview in Helsingin Sanomat (16 October 2000), Widgren says that there are no justified grounds to give them more votes. Large countries have been demanding more votes in the Council if they lose the second Commissioner's post in the Commission. According to Widgrén, only Germany is entitled to more power on the basis of its population. In his view Luxemburg is over-represented in relation to its population.

See also:

"EU needs new philosophy to help enlargement"

11 August 2000

Schröder: No exclusive clubs within EU

17 July 2000

"EU hard core membership important for security"

31 May 2000

EU enlargement will reduce number of Finnish MEPs

19 May 2000

Citizens' rights emphasised as part of EU reform

26 October 1999

Changing EU voting rules would be undemocratic by Hannu Reime

October 1999

Power of big EU countries raises questions

October 1999






[home] [archive] [focus]