Let’s take migration as an example. The European Council saw the heads of states and government sparing over the issue until early hours a few weeks ago. Gloves were off and moods were sour. Tragedy in the Mediterranean was reduced to a debate on how to share 60 thousand souls that risked their lives to flee conflict and persecution. Italians and Greeks were overwhelmed and it was time to share “the burden”. Let’s leave aside the negligible number and focus on the European way of responding to this challenge.
In April, the Council agreed to share responsibility on a voluntary basis, each Member State would do what it can. A few weeks later the Commission President threw these conclusions out of the window by offering a compulsory quota achieved via a complicated formula that benefits those that have many asylum seekers (rich and large). Is this fair? Yes and no. Yes, the Commission has a right of initiative and it may use it at will. No, the Council pronounced its political will and it was ignored. Moreover, the Juncker Commission was breaking through an open door. Overwhelming majority of Member States sitting around the table were willing to demonstrate solidarity. In a blame game that took place thereafter no one has won, least of all the European unity.
We have had a defunct migration policy for years now. The legislative initiatives that were tried have not delivered. Juncker’s Migration agenda makes an effort to change it, but the choice to impose quotas on Member States is hardly a solution. Commission has asked Member States and asylum seekers to do away with the sovereignty and free will. According to the proposal, Member States cannot decide how many asylum seekers their social integration system can absorb and an asylum seeker cannot decide where in the borderless EU he or she wants to be relocated. Jean-Claude knows better.
In a simplistic illustration, the Council becomes a contemptible beast and the Commission is a compassionate do-gooder. Unfortunately, the majority of European citizens could not make a distinction who is who. Hence the overall impression is that Europe is in a mess.
The Central Europeans, Balts, Balkans or Iberians were reminded what the EU is and what it is not. Italian prime minister recalled the credentials of a founding Member State and lectured fellow leaders what Europe he prefers when it comes to migration debate.
Donald Tusk tried and failed to lead. He stood accused by founding grandsons of being too “ossi” and derided by fellow easterners for being too “sissy”. Tusk is not comfortable in the driving seat. He does not steer the European debate, be it on migration or future of the EMU or the euro crisis. The Council runs after the Commission. It was Juncker who thrashed out the Migration Agenda, 5 President EMU report, or called Tsipras when he was driving off the cliff with the referendum proposal. The conflict of the Commission and the Council takes shape and it will inevitably consequences and collateral damage.
The beauty of the European compromise and the future of the EU integration lie in the ability to move forward together. The fragile democratic balance of the European construction tells us that if you run too fast, you fall. Juncker is right to be ambitious and willing to take political leadership, but so far his choice of methods to move EU forward is counterproductive. This is not a “political” Commission. This is a European bulldozer that runs on the understanding that end justifies the means. Confrontation of large and small, rich and poor will make our Union less stable and it will further alienate the European citizens.