EU Presidency – Real Impact or Just a Political Ritual?

The PDU’s CEO joined a panel of experts at this year’s Polish Economic Forum to discuss the question of whether or not we still need the EU Presidency in its current form.


Benjamin Zeeb (right) at the Polish Economic Forum

At this years Polish Economic Forum in Krynica, Benjamin Zeeb joined a panel of experts to discuss the current state and future viability of the institution of the “EU Presidency”. The question brought to the panelists was formulated as follows:

“Do we really need the EU Presidency? On the one hand, after the Treaty of Lisbon the importance of the Presidency has been significantly reduced and some of its powers were transferred to other bodies. On the other, the rotating EU leadership gives citizens the opportunity for European-wide thinking and shows them that EU policies can be formulated also outside of Brussels”.

Panelists Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz (former Polish Prime Minister and now an adviser at Economic and Financial Consulting – Poland), Cristiano Zagari (managing editor of Italian Semestre Europeo Magazine) John Grogan (Patron, former British MP and member of the Ukrainian British City Club – United Kingdom), Viktors Makarovs (Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Latvia), and Francesco Tufarelli (Director General of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers – Italy) all shared the view that while not perfect, the current system has not yet outlived its usefulness. While emphasizing different aspects of the institution (its historical significance, its role as an introduction to the world of Brussels bureaucracy, and its evolution as a consequence of the Lisbon Treaty), they reached a consensus regarding its continued viability as an effective and efficient means for EU governance.

PDU’s CEO Benjamin Zeeb on the other hand, made the case that it is now time to move on; that we must create the office of Union President, directly elected by all the citizens of Eurozone countries. The current system, Zeeb argued, is a “textbook example of institutional decay”; a situation in which a set of rules once established in the context of intergovernmental cooperation is no longer functional in the current political environment. Global challenges, the implementation of the common currency, and the consequences of the Euro crisis created an environment that impeded the institution’s effectiveness.  The reforms that came with the signing of the Lisbon Treaty indicated that European politicians had understood the shortcomings of the Presidency and had tried to work towards improving is functionality, but these reforms were not nearly sufficient or far enough reaching.

Zeeb’s point of view was supported by Carlos Puente (Political and Economic Analyst, European Commission – Spain) who also called for the implementation of a real and democratically legitimated Presidency. According to Puente, the Presidency in its current form lacks the strength to overcome nationalistic divisions.

PDU would like to thank the organizers of this year’s Polish Economic Forum for the invitation and all panelists for a spirited discussion.

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