TEPSA Newsletter Editorial September 2016: “The European Union is in an existential crisis: how to get out?”, Jaap de Zwaan

The European Union was for a long time a stable organisation. She is now under serious threat.

External challenges affect the stability and unity of the Union. To mention a few: the migration crisis, the tensions at our eastern boarders (Russia/Ukraine), the situation in Turkey, the continuing conflicts around the Mediterranean (Syria, Israel/Palestine, Libya) and terrorism. Vigorous and timely responses are needed.

The Union’s cohesion is also challenged from the inside. The economic crisis is not over yet, several Member States are suffering disproportionally from the influx of migrants, populism is progressing in many Member States, governments of some Member States are involved in discussions about the violation of fundamental EU values and principles, and the citizens of the United Kingdom have voted to withdraw from the Union. Wise and effective reactions are asked for to address all these problems.

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker stated in his State of the Union 2016 speech on 14 September before the European Parliament that the “European Union is, at least in part, in an existential crisis”. He stressed the Commission’s priorities and presented new initiatives. Certainly good suggestions. However, action is what we need.

The Informal Summit of Heads of State and Government in Bratislava of 16 September in its turn proposed a work programme (the ‘Bratislava roadmap’). Essentially good intentions, but that is not enough. Rather concrete plans and time schedules have to be drawn up.

Having said that, the impression is that the available EU instruments and procedures don’t suffice to overcome the crises (plural) mentioned. New approaches are indicated.

One of them is flexibility. Those Member States who want to go forward on the path of integration should be allowed to do so. The original principles, unity and uniformity, reflected by a situation wherein all Member States act jointly at the same moment and with the same speed, are not appropriate anymore. The world where we live in has apparently become too complicated! A recommendation thus would be to simplify the conditions to trigger enhanced cooperation, the treaty concept according to which a forerunner group of Member States can start acting in a given policy domain, whereas the other Member States may follow later. At present the Treaty texts prescribe a formal Commission proposal to be approved by the Council by qualified majority before enhanced cooperation can be established. Instead, a super-majority (i.e., three quarters) of the Member States should be allowed to start such a cooperation without prior permission when, after a reasonable period of time, it is observed that a common solution cannot be reached by the Union as a whole.

One may even go further. One can think at simplified procedures to amend the treaties. According to the present situation the approval and ratification by all 28 Member States is required to have treaty amendments entering into force. Also in this case three quarters of the Member States should be able to move forward once they have ratified the treaty amendments concerned. Member States ratifying later, will be bound only at that later stage. On the contrary, Member States whose parliaments in the end do not approve the amendments shall not be obliged to respect the new engagements. So, no Member State can be bound against its will.

Last, but not least, ideas like the ones mentioned require treaty amendments in order to be realized. Now, certainly politicians these days do not like to make decisions implying treaty amendments. It may therefore be that the suggestions are considered politically less feasible at this juncture. On the other hand, the discussion regarding the future of the Union necessitates that new ideas are put on the table. ‘Muddling through’ is not an alternative anymore.

A wake up call has to be addressed to our political leaders. It is up to them to be creative and to make the right choices in the interest of a well-equipped and stable European Union.

Jaap de Zwaan

TEPSA Secretary-General

PONT Working Europe Seminar, 4-8 April 2016, Brussels: “EU Asylum and Migration Policies”

PONT

Fondation Universitaire,
Rue d’Egmont 11, Brussels

In the framework of the Professional Training on EU Affairs – PONT project, co-funded by the ERASMUS+/Jean Monnet Programme, TEPSA organized a five-day seminar on EU Asylum and Migration policies in Brussels on 4-8 April 2016. Twenty excellent Master’s students from diverse geographical and disciplinary backgrounds were selected from more than 100 high-calibre applicants. The seminar offered a unique opportunity to the participants to gain first-hand insights, right in the heart of EU policy-making, into the political dynamics shaping EU asylum and migration policies and the EU’s response to the recent migration challenge.

The PONT seminar participants had an opportunity to visit and meet practitioners from the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Permanent Representation of Austria to the EU and Frontex – the EU border management agency. Experts from influential Brussels-based NGOs and think-tanks, namely the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) discussed with the seminar participants the legal aspects of recent EU asylum policy changes and the EU’s response to the refugee crisis, including the cooperation with third countries and the role of funding.  At the end of each day, participants discussed and evaluated the meetings with the leader of the seminar, Prof Jaap W. de Zwaan, Secretary General of TEPSA and Emeritus Professor of European Union Law at Erasmus University Rotterdam, comparing their new findings with available academic literature and their own preparatory essays.

On the last day of the seminar, students had the opportunity to apply the theoretical and practical insights they gained during the week in a simulation game of European Council negotiations on the hypothetical scenario of large numbers of migrants arriving to Europe from Sub-Saharan Africa. Students had no difficulty in getting into their respective roles as representatives of Member States and European institutions. Based on the excellent diplomatic efforts of the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission, the European Council adopted meaningful conclusions only after three hours of negotiations!

PONT Working Europe I day 3_Council of the EU 2

TEPSA wishes the PONT seminar participants a good continuation of their studies and research and a good start of their professional careers!

REPORT_TEPSA Working Europe I seminar on EU Asylum and Migration policies_newsletter-page-001

Here you can consult the final agenda of the PONT seminar.

The presentations of some of the speakers can be downloaded below:

Prof. Klemens Fischer – The EU and the current global security challenges

Prof. Jaap de Zwaan – How to solve the migration crisis

Prof. Jaap de Zwaan – Asylum and Immigration in the EU context

Péter Dávid – EU’s response to migrant smuggling

Amanda Taylor – Legal standards in the context of EU asylum policy changes

Print

TEPSA Newsletter Editorial April 2016: “The European Union and the United Kingdom: Brexit? or United Forward!”

 Can we imagine a European Commission without a British member?
Can we imagine a Council meeting without a British minister?
Can we imagine a European Parliament without British MEPs?
And, can we imagine TEPSA without a full-fledged British member?

The answer to all these questions clearly is: NO.
The European Union is a safe place to discuss and decide about common and global issues, whether related to economics, security or people.
It makes quite a difference to be member of a family or a related member. We all know that from our personal experiences. It is simply not the same.
Of course, dependent of whether there will be sufficient political will on all sides, one can imagine an alternative construction for the UK like EEA membership, a preferred associate status or something similar. However, again, it is not the same.

That, by the way, is the reason why our General Assembly in Bratislava of 2 June will decide about a proposal of the Board, supported by all TEPSA members being present at the last General Assembly in The Hague in November 2015, to broaden the scope of TEPSA membership: from, as the Statutes are worded now, institutes established in ‘Member States of the EU’ to institutes established in ‘European’ countries. Indeed, for European academics dealing with EU studies it is better to be fully involved than to be ‘associated’ to the work of others.

In fact, the European Union is a peace project. We aim at creating conditions of peace, stability and prosperity for all our citizens. It is the old narrative of EU cooperation. Many politicians ask these days for a new narrative, more appealing to younger generations. However, the original one still has its merits. On a daily basis issues appear on our agenda which individual states cannot handle anymore alone. Whether it is trade, the economic crisis, the migration crisis, terrorism or the geopolitical tensions at all our external borders (Russia/Ukraine, the Middle East, and North Africa).

Problems arising during internal EU negotiations have to be solved by elaborating compromises, eventually in the form of formulas of differentiation and flexibility. In fact, to a large extent it is due to the British position in EU cooperation that we have already developed an extensive practice of differentiated approaches (in the domain of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice and the Euro cooperation for example).
Because of the differences with regard to economic and political orientation already existing between the present Member States and, still more evidently, between the present and candidate Member States, differentiated cooperation is the model for the future, whether we like it or not. Moreover, is ‘Unity in Diversity’ not the motto of the European Union? As long as differentiated solutions do not interfere with the basic principles and the core acquis of the Union, they have to be accepted. In that respect the New Settlement elaborated for the United Kingdom by the European Council in its meeting of 18/19 February reflects a careful balance.

Last but not least, sovereignty these days is an illusion. The world has become a global village, our economies have become interdependent and communication is organised through ultra-fast networks.
Therefore, again, we better share responsibilities to cope with common challenges rather than have to deal with them on our own. From such a global perspective, the United States – with its President, Barack Obama, as its best spokesperson – is  the first to agree that the United Kingdom has its place in Europe, in the (perhaps not perfect, but all the same) stable framework of the European Union.

So, let us hope that common sense will prevail on 23 June when the referendum in the United Kingdom will take place. Let us hope for the best result, for Europe and the United Kingdom!

Prof. Jaap de Zwaan, TEPSA Secretary-General

TEPSA Newsletter Editorial February 2016: “Schengen has imploded: how to save Schengen?”

The EU and its member states have been completely overtaken by the refugee crisis, more particularly in view of the numbers of migrants and the intensity of the process. We were not sufficiently prepared. Whether we could have foreseen the crisis, is another question.

In theory suitable instruments were available to counter the crisis. In view of the ‘single human space’ (the de facto borderless Schengen area) created after setting up the single market, the accomplishment of some important tasks should have been ensured at the EU external borders: the registration of the claims for asylum or other forms of protection, the identification of the applicants and the examination of the individual applications. Also the return of irregular migrants to their country of origin should have been prepared at our external borders. In this whole process fast procedures should have been applied.

In practice, however, our external borders appeared to be permeable. The weak role of Frontex is certainly an element in this discussion. However, at the time this agency was founded, member states did not want to have a strong European organisation responsible to exercise, as it were autonomously, controls at the external EU borders. On the contrary, member states preferred an organisation with a mandate to merely ‘assist’ them, upon their request. As it turned out, during the crisis individual member states started to develop their own approaches, varying from respectively allowing immediate passage, showing hospitality and openness, to the closing of borders and the construction of fences. Consequently, disorder arose and migrants evidently chose to travel (only) to those member states with an open attitude towards them. In short, a result completely contrary to the principles of solidarity and burden sharing. An approach also far from the common solutions which were so desperately needed.

Who is to blame for the situation that has occurred? Certainly not the European Union or, more particularly, the Commission. Indeed, the Commission has always monitored the situation carefully and tabled suitable proposals to counter the situation. Therefore, the member states are rather to blame. Either they did not implement obligations they had accepted in an earlier stage, or they were not willing to be engaged in a process of solidarity leading to common solutions. Is Europe lacking visionary politicians these days?

What should happen now? As much as possible, we have to try to transform the present chaotic situation into the one which should have been envisaged right from the start of the crisis. That means fast procedures for the registration, identification and examination of the applications for asylum. In view of the huge number of migrants a fair system of relocation across the member states cannot be avoided, also an effective system to return irregular migrants to their country of origin is needed. A supplementary measure could be to implement the ‘humanitarian admission scheme’ with Turkey. According to that scheme, a reduction of irregular inflows into Europe will be coupled with a (voluntary) admission in Europe of (primarily Syrian) migrants who were received in Turkey but are in need of protection. Another idea could be to ‘internationalise’ the problem, and to invite other ‘safe’ third countries to take their responsibility in the crisis and to accept a number of migrants in their respective countries. It is by the way surprising that this question has not been put more explicitly on the international agenda.

At the end of 2015, the Commission presented its proposal regarding the establishment of a European Border and Coast Guard: a good proposal aiming to secure control over the EU’s external borders in the Mediterranean. Indeed, everybody understands that a common, European, organisation is needed to fulfil such a complicated task in difficult and, even, dangerous times. In the given circumstances, the full responsibility to control these borders cannot be left any longer to those member states geographically located in the territory where these borders are drawn. The European Council of 18 February has called for an acceleration of the work with a view to reaching political agreement under the Dutch Presidency. Let’s hope that the competent ministers will do everything possible to restore an effective – and common – Schengen system well before the Dutch Presidency ends.

Prof. Jaap de Zwaan, TEPSA Secretary-General

Welcome to new TEPSA Secretary General

201205230_Jaap de Zwaan-1Professor Jaap de Zwaan took up his duties as new TEPSA Secretary General on 1 January 2014. Jaap de Zwaan is a Professor of European Union Law at the Erasmus University Rotterdam and Lector European Integration at the The Hague University for Applied Sciences. In addition to his involvement in the TEPSA Board since January 2010, he is also a board member of numerous institutes, including the Governing Board of the European Studies Institute in Moscow. From 1979 to 1998, he worked for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs both from The Hague and Brussels. Between 2005-2011 he was Director of the TEPSA Member Institute: Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’. His research areas include law and policy of the European Union, notably institutional/constitutional aspects, movement of persons and European Citizenship, justice and home affairs cooperation (the ‘area of freedom, security and justice’) and external relations of the EU, including CFSP/CSDP. More information on Prof. De Zwaan can be found here.

TEPSA Conference: “Future models of European integration”, 28-29 November, The Hague

TEPSA_LOGOOn Thursday 28 and Friday 29 November 2013 the Research Group European Integration of the The Hague University of Applied Sciences in cooperation with the Trans European Policy Studies Association (TEPSA) organized a conference entitled:

FUTURE MODELS OF EUROPEAN INTEGRATION

The Conference discussed models of differentiated integration. The idea being that without such models, the European Union may probably not survive in the future. Indeed, the group of existing member states is not a homogeneous group. Between the partners there exist substantive differences as to economic and/or social development. Thus one may hardly expect that all member states will be able to cooperate in the future in a uniform manner and simultaneously in all policy domains.

The first file open for discussion concerned Economic Governance. Indeed, economic and monetary policy has from the outset been an area where not all Member States participate in a similar manner. The recent ESM (European Stability Mechanism) Treaty as well as the Fiscal Compact Treaty have only confirmed this fact. In a second part the potential of enhanced cooperation was discussed. So far this general treaty principle has been applied in three cases. However, in the future more use will respectively should be made of this principle, eventually by creating more flexibility as to the modalities of application of enhanced cooperation. Thereafter in three parallel sessions specific case studies were discussed. A first topic concerns the possibilities to introduce varieties of differentiated cooperation in Common Foreign and Security Policy, after the example of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice where for example three member states have been granted full-fledged derogations. Then attention was given to the possibility to involve neighbouring countries and applicant countries in crucial domains of EU cooperation according to the model of gradualness. Moreover tensions related to independentism within individual member states were analysed: what would it mean for EU membership when a given member state would fall apart? Finally and in the light of the findings reached during the discussions over de other topics, the best approach(es) to be followed by the European Union as a whole were discussed. Here you can consult the Programme.

For information: Jaap de Zwaan j•w•dezwaan©hhs•nl  (j•w•dezwaan©hhs•nl)   and Cécile Fournis cecilefournis©hotmail•com  (cecilefournis©hotmail•com)  

“Britain and the EU: views of members of the TEPSA network”

TEPSA_LOGOThe benefits and costs of Britain’s EU membership are heavily debated across Britain. Britain’s Foreign Secretary launched a review of EU competences in July 2012 and in January 2013 Prime Minister Cameron delivered a speech about his plans for a referendum on British membership of the European Union by the end of 2017. In the debate on Britain’s EU membership the points of view of Britain’s partners need to be heard. In official forums such as the EU institutions, where government representatives are bound by the conventions of diplomacy, it is difficult to discuss the matter frankly; but in the TEPSA network of European policy research institutes ideas and opinions can be exchanged more freely. Members of the TEPSA network were therefore invited to respond to a series of questions concerning: their perception of Britain’s role in the EU; the consequences of Britain’s possible departure from the EU; their advice to the British people concerning relations with the EU.

The report “Britain and the European Union, views of members of the TEPSA network” summarises the ideas and opinions contributed by 13 researchers together with a view from Dublin and a view from London. This report was compiled by Graham Avery (Oxford) with Brendan Donnelly (London), Dáithí O’Ceallaigh (Dublin) and Mirte van den Berge (Brussels), with grateful thanks for contributions from Gianni Bonvicini (Rome), Roderick Pace (Valletta), Jaap de Zwaan (The Hague), Bernardo Pires de Lima & Tiago Moreira de Sá (Lisbon), Gunilla Herolf (Stockholm), Antonis Papagiannidis (Athens), Juha Jokela (Helsinki), Jean-Marie Majerus (Luxembourg), Krisztina Vida (Budapest), Costas Melakopides (Nicosia), Višnja Samardžija (Zagreb), Otmar Höll (Vienna) and Ramūnas Vilpišauskas (Vilnius).

Read the publication: Britain and the EU – views of members of the TEPSA network.

Editorial TEPSA Newsletter November 2014: “European Parliament and National Parliaments: partners or competitors?”, by Prof. Jaap de Zwaan, TEPSA Secretary General

images52J3E3P3It is clear that the primary responsibility with respect to the representation of citizens’ interests in the EU decision making process lies with the European Parliament. Indeed, the EP is directly elected, acts as co-legislator in the legislative process of the EU and possesses full-fledged budgetary powers. On the contrary, national parliaments are first and for all responsible to control the activities of their national ministers in the Council.

During recent years, however, the role of national parliaments in EU policy making has been strengthened. Notably the Lisbon Treaty has given a strong impetus in this respect. In Article 12 TEU, the different contributions of national parliaments to EU policy making are listed. Furthermore the First Protocol annexed to the Lisbon Treaty deals with information to be provided to national parliaments regarding recent policy developments, as well as with COSAC, the forum for interparliamentary cooperation within the Union. The Second Protocol describes the role of national parliaments in the process of application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality (the so-called ‘yellow’ and ‘red’ card procedure).

In this way the EP and national parliaments have their own, but strictly separate, responsibilities with regard to the further development of the integration process.

Now, both parliamentary branches would be wise to realize that, as directly elected instances, they both do represent the interests of the same citizens. These are common interests which they have to serve, each from their own perspective. In this process both levels, the national and the European one, should try to develop a, as much as possible, coherent approach.

The legitimacy of the EU decision making process for example would be well served if both parliamentary branches start to cooperate in a more structural and intensive way compared to what is happening today. So national parliaments could invite committees of the EP to come over to their member states in order to discuss -in the national parliament concerned- day to day business in the policy field in question. National parliaments also could organize periodically public hearings or debates in their member states about topical issues for which they invite, apart from relevant stakeholders and the media, individual members of the EP. Similar initiatives could be taken with regard to political groups of the EP respectively individual members of those groups.

Similar initiatives of course can be taken by the European Parliament with regard to their national counterparts. However, in view of the fact that the EP is the natural and fully competent participant in the EU decision making process, initiatives should originate in the first instance from national parliaments.

Equally national parliaments should position themselves -in contacts with their constituencies and electorate- much more than happens today as part of an international layer of government, in this case, the European Union. Because, indeed, national parliaments are on a daily basis engaged with legislation and other policy issues having a European background. What is urgently needed here is more ‘outreach’ to the ordinary citizen.

One of the major -and structural- problems the European Union is confronted with these days, concerns the ‘distance’ between the citizen and the European Union as well as the transparency and legitimacy of the EU decision making process. By cooperating more closely, the European Parliament and national parliaments should be able to bridge that gap, at least partially.

Photo source: presstv.ir

TEPSA Newsletter Editorial June 2016: “After the referendum of 23 June…”

1On 23 June, the British people decided in a referendum that the United Kingdom should leave the European Union.

A sad decision, for the European Union, the other Member States, but also – and perhaps even in the first place– for the United Kingdom itself. Did the British voter realise sufficiently what was at stake when deciding about such a vital and complicated matter? And why was it that the Prime Minister proposed to have such a referendum in the first place? Apparently, essentially internal party interests were involved.

Certainly also TEPSA, its members and associated members regret the decision. That said, but that is only a small comfort, once the UK has effectively left the EU, our British TEPSA member – the Federal Trust – can remain a full-fledged member of our Association. Because during the last TEPSA General Assembly meeting of 2 June 2016 in  Bratislava it was decided to broaden the scope of TEPSA’s membership: from institutes established in ‘Member States of the European Union’ to institutes established in ‘European states’ globally speaking. What a coincidence!

Reflecting about the follow-up of the British decision the question of course arises: what now? Different scenarios have already been presented.

I do not want to discuss the merits of those scenarios. However, I recall what I said earlier, in my Editorial for the April TEPSA Newsletter: differentiation is the model for the future of EU cooperation. Also the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the six founding Member States, meeting on Saturday 25 June in Berlin, underlined that idea.

Now, indeed, the UK already does not participate in the Euro-cooperation (derogation) and is in principle also out of the whole Area of Freedom, Security and Justice cooperation (opt-out). Furthermore, the 18-19 February 2016 Decision of the European Council (by the way, hardly discussed during the campaign!) provided – under the heading ‘Sovereignty’ – reassurances for the UK that ‘…it is not committed to further political integration into the European Union’. Even a concession was made in order to overcome British complaints regarding social benefits and free movement: to provide for an alert and safeguard mechanism when essential aspects of its social security system are affected.

In light of its accession in 1973 Britain has always claimed that it was first of all interested in economic cooperation at the European level. In that respect the Internal Market is a fine model, also for the United Kingdom. Like the other Member States, the UK is best served with a model characterised by the principles of free movement, liberalisation and non-discrimination. Now, during the Article 50 negotiations, the United Kingdom may be offered the opportunity to join the European Economic Area (EEA). Certainly a model equally allowing them to participate in the Internal Market cooperation, however without having a say in the policy making concerned. Other models, for example a customs union or a free trade agreement, represent, also from a British perspective, far less attractive options.

The European Union has demonstrated in earlier occasions to be able to solve serious national problems regarding EU cooperation: think for example about the Danish referenda (plural!) after Maastricht and the Irish referenda (again, plural) after Nice and Lisbon.

Is it too late for a wake-up call in the United Kingdom, and for a re-consideration of the British decision to leave the European Union?

Time will tell. It is up to them, not to us to decide on this.

Jaap de Zwaan, TEPSA Secretary-General

Editorial TEPSA Newsletter September 2014: “The Neighbouring Policy of the European Union: it is Soft Power that is needed!”, by Prof. Jaap de Zwaan, TEPSA Secretary General

Map editorialIn a period of ten years the geopolitical situation at the external borders of the European Union has completely changed. Of course, the Israeli-Palestine conflict unfortunately is a lasting one, during the last decade the situation has in fact only worsened. However, apart from that central problem, a lot of unrest and conflicts have occurred in our neighbourhood. First the invasion in Iraq. Then the Arab Spring which has become an Arab Winter if not worse. The revolution resulted in an unstable Arab world, giving rise inter alia to a civil war in Syria which is now out of control. It also paved the way for a Northern Africa in transformation (Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and recently also Algeria where a French tourist was murdered by a terrorist group). Since a couple of years, we furthermore experience a massive influx of migrants and refugees coming from Northern and Central Africa, looking for a better future notably in Europe. Recently the cruelties of IS in Iraq and Syria have only added to the disasters and dramas which already took place in that region.

This year, also the border between Ukraine and the Russian Federation was unilaterally modified by Russia: an unprecedented violation of the territorial integrity of an independent state in Europe’s recent history. As a consequence, the relationship between the EU and the Russian Federation is now full of tensions, whereas the Union is faced with a weakened Ukraine at her Eastern external borders.
This being so, one has to recognize that the last ten years the EU has more or less neglected the relations with her neighbours. The enlargements of 2004, 2007 and 2013 as well as the economic crisis kept us busy. Moreover our approach with regard to the new Eastern neighbours (ENP, Eastern Partnership) is a rather artificial one. In the course of the negotiations to conclude an association agreement, the EU requires them to implement our norms, values and policies. However, the new neighbours -although clearly European states- are not allowed to become new inhabitants of our common house, if it is only in the long run. Such an approach appears to be contradictory and has to change. Peace and security on the European continent requires us to develop a new policy.

We should start to fully exercise our Soft Power capacity in our relations with all our neighbours, whether in the East or in the South. First of all humanitarian aid has to be provided where necessary. Then assistance is needed in the process of reconstruction and institution building, including the setting up of independent judiciaries. We must also support economic reforms and democratic changes. Apart from that, the development of people to people contacts and academic cooperation has to be stimulated. Student and youth exchanges as well as internship programs should be developed. Of course preliminary conditions and requirements also have to be set: notably the firm aspiration of the neighbour in question to strive at democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law.

At a certain moment this approach has also to be applied in the contacts with the Russian Federation. Because, whether you like it or not, Russia is an important neighbour of the EU. The development of stable relations with that country can only contribute to stability on the whole European continent. In that context it can also facilitate the intensification of our contacts with former Soviet Republics: Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus, as well as in the Southern Caucasus: Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. As to the energy sector, an interdependence between Russia and the EU does already exist. However, in the future Russia may also become an important market for our small-, medium-sized and big companies. Moreover well-developed people to people contacts are more than welcome. Be that as it may, first of all satisfactory solutions for the outstanding military, political and economic problems in Ukraine have to be found.

So, an innovated neighbourhood policy has to be developed in the coming period as a priority of EU policy, in the interest of peace and security on our European continent. For that purpose initiatives are to be expected in the first place from the European Commission: a new but challenging responsibility of the new commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn!

Picture source: http://eeas.europa.eu/enp/images/enpmap-web-big.gif

Need for Solidarity means ‘more Europe’ by Prof. Jaap de Zwaan, TEPSA Secretary General

ID-100259725These days Europe experiences serious global challenges, all related to the principle of solidarity.

First of all the Greek economic crisis. Whatever the background and history of the crisis, it is obvious that Greece is not able to solve its problems entirely by itself. The same was true for the earlier crises, the banking crisis, the euro crisis and the sovereign debt crisis. Equally all instruments regarding economic governance adopted so far are the result of common action. So, in the economic area continuous cooperation and support is needed from all sides: the Member States and institutions like the ECB and the IMF. Common problems have to be solved commonly.

Another problem concerns the geopolitical tensions at our Eastern border, the conflict in Ukraine in the first place. After the Russian annexation of the Crimea and the unrest arisen in the Donbas region, we all have realized that threats at our external borders may have an impact on the security of all of us. Also these threats cannot be tackled by Member States individually. On the contrary, common action is needed, in this case in cooperation with NATO.

Finally, the refugee crisis. Europe has difficulties to handle the massive influxes of displaced persons mainly coming from countries like Syria, Eritrea and Iraq. Recently even a vote in the JHA Council was needed in order to establish a fair quota system to distribute 120.000 refugees over the Member States. Again, no Member State can solve these problems on its own and no Member State should try to escape from its responsibilities in this domain either.

All issues mentioned are of high importance and global in nature, but also related to solidarity. We must help and assist each other to find suitable solutions for them.

The EU is well equipped to render good services here. The EU procedures and institutions function properly and its decision making process is democratically safeguarded. That said, it is not a matter of simply transferring new competences to the European Union. The process is more complicated than that. Keeping in mind the national competences and responsibilities at stake, instruments like coordination, exchange of best practices and sharing of (physical and financial) responsibilities have to be used. Also more discipline is required, regarding the application and enforcement of commonly agreed decisions. In fact, all activities mentioned can best be organized and coordinated at the European level.

The concentration of responsibilities at the European level will certainly have consequences for the dividing lines separating the competences of the Member States from the competences of the European Union. However, if practice shows that cooperation is needed to solve issues which cannot be handled by individual Member States, let’s not hesitate and do it. It is as simple as that. Eventually even the legal framework of the Union has to be amended for that purpose.

Nobody can deny, that what is needed in order to resolve the mentioned issues is ‘more Europe’. Such a result is in the interest of all of us: Member States, their citizens and the European Union as a whole. To put it differently, the alternative –all responsibilities remain at the national level– is a recipe for confusion, disharmony and unrest.

Jaap W. de Zwaan, TEPSA Secretary-General

Photo: Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Editorial TEPSA Newsletter February 2015: “Speaking with one voice”, by Prof. Jaap de Zwaan, TEPSA Secretary General

EUIt was the German Chancellor, Merkel, who developed initiatives to put an end to the violence in Eastern Ukraine. It was her, Merkel, and Hollande who went to Minsk and Moscow for the diplomatic talks. Who did they represent, their countries or the European Union as such? Anyway, at least initiatives were developed from the European side. That is positive.

That being said, the question of course arises why Tusk or Mogherini didn’t go. Because, they respectively do represent the European Union at the highest political level (Tusk as President of the European Council) and have a mission to act at ministerial level on behalf of the European Union in foreign policy contacts with third countries and international organisations (Mogherini as High Representative).

Whereas the Commission generally speaking plays a useful role – and is also accepted by third parties – as negotiator and representative of the European Union and the Member States when Union competences are at stake (the reference here for example is to Malmström and the TTIP negotiations), the same is apparently not true when the subjects’ matters essentially concern national competences. In such cases we apparently don’t trust too much the structures we have created ourselves, but prefer to designate somebody who can exercise real influence on the negotiations in question.

Is that a problem? Yes, to a certain extent it is. Because it took a while before the new functions of Permanent President of the European Council and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy were created. Now we have them, one could argue, we should also profit from them.

Now, practice shows that the new models, developed in times of peace, are in fact suited to be applied –indeed- only in times of peace. As Herman Van Rompuy has demonstrated, they are also appropriate to be practised when (serious) internal problems of the Union and/or the Member States have to be dealt with. The economic crisis is such an example. Indeed, no one has contested Van Rompuy’s capabilities not only to chair the meetings of Heads of State and Government, but also to find compromise formulas at the right time. However, when serious foreign policy and defence issues are in discussion, thus domains where essentially Member States are the competent authorities, we are looking for a heavy weight, by preference a sitting Head of State and Government, to do the job. A personality whose involvement may have a real impact also on the third parties involved in the negotiations. Like Merkel in the case of the Minsk agreement.

In this respect one may wonder whether for conflicts in (French speaking) Africa it would be Hollande to be best placed to represent the European Union during peace negotiations, or Cameron when conflicts might occur in the English speaking Western world, or Rajoy in case of problems in the Spanish speaking part of Southern America.

If that’s the way the European Union can best function when foreign policy or defence issues are at stake, so be it. At least it helps to provide the European Union with the status of a real global player. Such an evolution clearly represents a European interest.

Photo source: theguardian.com

Editorial TEPSA Newsletter April 2015: “The tragedies in the Mediterranean and the European Neighbourhood Policy”, by Secretary General, Jaap W. de Zwaan

334px-EU_European_Neighbourhood_Policy_states.svgThe human tragedies taking place in the Mediterranean shock the world. Recently new forms of barbarism, where immigrants were kept imprisoned in non-seaworthy boats and drowned after capsizing, came to light. Immediate reactions and actions are expected, more particularly from the European Union.

EU Ministers of Foreign and Home Affairs have adopted a ten-point plan in their meeting of 20 April. This plan has been confirmed at a special meeting of the European Council on Thursday 23 April. One of the agreed measures relates to cooperation with third countries, in particular Libya, where many people trying to flee to Europe often start their travel.

When referring to cooperation with third countries, the question arises whether explicit mention should not be made more generally, of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). Indeed, ENP covers all states surrounding the Mediterranean (and Eastern Europe). In this case, however, the reference obviously is to the ENP countries of the Mediterranean: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine.

The EU has for a long time – itself being preoccupied by the economic crisis – somewhat neglected its relations with the Mediterranean countries concerned, several of them being former colonies of Member States. For a long time we have underestimated the relevance of good relations with that neighbourhood for our own stability and security.

Now, measures to cope with the influx of immigrants coming from Africa (and Asia) could be integrated in a comprehensive and integral policy regarding these Mediterranean ENP countries. Here we may think – in the first place – of rescue operations and measures to combat international crime (human trafficking, corruption, fraud, blackmail and the like), but also of measures how to prevent people to leave their homes, region and country (by rendering assistance in the process of reconstruction after conflict, other forms of development aid, making of investments and the like). Neighbourhood countries may also help by creating ‘safe havens’ on their own territory, where immigrants can submit their applications for asylum or, in the case in question, a residence permit, meanwhile profiting from protection provided by the host country.

Of course we must realize that nearly all Mediterranean countries involved suffer from the consequences of the Arab Spring, now better to be referred to as an Arab Winter. Indeed, many of those countries are politically unstable and find themselves in a vehement process of transformation. However, after a long period of neglect they anyhow require more attention from our side that has happened in the past.

So, there are enough reasons to integrate a discussion and, more importantly, concrete actions on – how to cope with the tragedies in the Mediterranean and the underlying problems in the countries of origin – in the broader context of the EU Neighbourhood Policy. In that framework all sorts of relevant measures may be discussed and adopted in a comprehensive manner: on the one hand assistance for a better system of governance/democracy and trade arrangements/privileges for the ENP countries concerned, on the other hand common actions to combat human trafficking and other forms of international crime.

An adequate implementation of all intentions mentioned will not only provide useful contributions to solve the tragedies at stake, they will also serve our own interests: safety and security in Europe. Furthermore such a more active approach can revitalize a policy domain – ENP – which was only modestly developed during the last couple of years. Last but not least, it will position the European Union as a credible global player in that other part of the world, our neighbourhood.

It is up to the Commission to take first steps in this area. There is no time to lose.

Jaap W. de Zwaan

Secretary-General TEPSA

Farewell to Jean Paul Jacqué and welcome to Jaap de Zwaan

by Wolfgang Wessels, Chairperson of the TEPSA Board

jacque

Jean Paul Jacqué has been with us for the past four years, serving to TEPSA as a devoted Secretary General. Being simultaneously the Honorary Director General and Special Councellor in the Council means that he is an outstanding specialist of EU law, but it is not all what we can say about him. Jean Paul is also a wonderful Professor, respected by his students all over the world, from Chile to Poland. Last but not least, he is a great friend of mine and the whole TEPSA network, and we can only be glad for having the opportunity to work with Jean Paul for the last years. As we cannot imagine TEPSA without him, we unanimously decided to grant Jean Paul a title of Honourary Board Member, hoping that he will be still honouring us with his knowledge, experience and a good word.

jzwaanIt is also my great pleasure to welcome a new Secretary General of TEPSA, who having been elected a Board Member by TEPSA General Assembly in October 2013 will take up his duties on 1 January 2014: Prof. Dr. Jaap de Zwaan. In years 2005-2011 Jaap was a Director of the TEPSA Member Institute: Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’, and is associated with the Erasmus University Rotterdam and The Hague University for Applied Sciences. Besides Jaap’s membership in the TEPSA Board since January 2010, he is also a member of numerous institutions, including the Governing Board of the European Studies Institute in Moscow. Jaap’s great area of both research expertise and practical experience leaves us convinced that he is the most right person to lead TEPSA for the following years. My dear friend, good luck!

Editorial TEPSA Newsletter July 2015:”The Greek people deserve our support”, by Prof. Jaap de Zwaan, TEPSA Secretary General

EditorialThe Greek referendum which was held on 5 July has been severely criticised. The question put to the people was not well drafted, the reference to an agreement reached with creditors in Brussels was not correct, etc. etc.

In the meantime the outcome of the referendum is known, it is a clear ‘no’. At the time of writing of this Editorial nobody exactly knows what the follow-up will be.

Now, whatever the consequences will be for the continuation of the negotiations in Brussels respectively for Greece’s position as a Euro zone country, so much is clear that a lot has to be achieved in order to make the Greek economy healthy again.

Certainly, the Greek government bears the main responsibility here. It has to introduce reforms and budgetary restrictions, to carry through privatisations, to amend several social policies and to combat corruption as well as tax and capital evasion.

However, the European Union as well as its Member States also bear a responsibility for what has happened. Indeed, we have accepted Greece as a Euro zone member. We have allowed each Member State to develop its own policy in all vital domains of the economy, such as employment, social security, income, taxation and pensions. All this, without a degree of surveillance being exercised. It was only when the crisis broke out, that efforts to coordinate national policies have been undertaken. In short, the European Union – in practice its Member States – have failed to implement the ‘E’ of the EMU, so the Economic Union.

The European Union and its Members States must therefore help to overcome this crisis. In the past Member States have always adopted rigorous measures when national sectors – agriculture, coal mines, textiles, shipyards etc. – were put at risk. We also have actively contributed to overcome the situation of backwardness of the economies of most new Members States of Central and Eastern Europe. Indeed, our public authorities as well as our business people have made massive investments in these countries, the outcome of which has resulted in a ‘win-win’ situation. So, why not help Greece?

Again, the Greek government bears a crucial responsibility here. The government also has to provide for political stability in the country and confidence on the market so that foreign investors will be tempted to effectively spend their money in Greece. That said, other Member States can – and should- -do more. We should not accept that the Greek economy – and in the end the Greek society as a whole – will be disrupted.

A serious factor here certainly is related to the geographic and strategic position of Greece in the Mediterranean. Think at the security tensions between Russia and Ukraine, and the consequences of this conflict for NATO. Think also at the dramatic influx of refugees coming from Africa, Syria and Asia who try to reach the European coasts, among others in Greece. However, a perhaps more important factor concerns the principle of solidarity. Indeed, it is high time to feel at one with the Greek population, so the ordinary citizens in that country.

Jaap W. de Zwaan

Editorial TEPSA Newsletter December 2015: “Status Quo of TEPSA”, by Prof. Wolfgang Wessels, Chairperson of the Board, and Prof. Jaap de Zwaan, TEPSA Secretary General

After the difficulties we encountered in 2014, let us share our positive assessment about the future of TEPSA.  In the past months TEPSA was able – because of the help of the whole network – to continue its well established work including the Pre-Presidential Conferences in Riga 2014, Luxembourg 2015 and The Hague 2015. Our special thanks go to the TEPSA member institutes in Riga (Latvian Institute of International Affairs), Luxembourg (Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Européennes Robert Schuman) and The Hague (Clingendael) for the excellent organisation and cooperation.

Three renowned organisations applied for membership, and after a careful scrutiny by the TEPSA Board and presentations on their work, the General Assembly in The Hague welcomed them with an unanimous vote: the Department of European Studies and International Relations of the University of Nicosia, Cyprus; the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), Oslo; and the Faculty of Economics of the University of Montenegro, Podgorica.

TEPSA also succeeded to get the ERASMUS+ Jean Monnet PONT project with which we will pursue a highly promising set of activities in the interest of our member institutes – especially in view of the annual professional skills training for young academics/young professionals. TEPSA is also partner in a major Horizon 2020 project on the EU and Turkey relations (FEUTURE), which offers TEPSA extended opportunities to participate in the policy formulation on this highly relevant topic for the EU. Plans for the TEPSA Pre-Presidential Conferences in Bratislava (2-3 June 2016) and Malta (November/December 2016) are well on their way.

On this firm and consolidated basis we can in 2016 plan for even more worthwhile activities in the years to come. During the General Assembly in The Hague we had a separate brainstorming session on TEPSA’s future vision and mission. We will take up the new ideas and continue to adapt the association to the needs of its member institutes and current EU realities. Given the current positive outlook for the association, the upcoming election for the new TEPSA Board, would be a good opportunity for a shift of responsibilities to a younger generation within the TEPSA network. We are very open for your suggestions and proposals in this regard. As to the procedure the present Board will come up with suggestions before the Bratislava PPC.

TEPSA  looks forward to even more cooperation in the near future, in the PONT and the FEUTURE projects and beyond.

Wolfgang Wessels, Chairperson of the Board

Jaap W. de Zwaan, TEPSA Secretary-General

Editorial TEPSA Newsletter February 2014: “European Union Cooperation: The Art of Explaining”, by Jaap de Zwaan, TEPSA Secretary General

5133718252_5efaeb86d5_zThe upcoming elections of May for the European Parliament are a test case for the public support and, in a way, the credibility of the EU cooperation.

In many member states euro scepticism is gaining importance. Furthermore, in all member states the support for European cooperation has been affected negatively by the economic crisis.

People are already concerned that an important number of euro-sceptics will win a seat in the European Parliament. Apart from that, the risk of a low turnout does exist, as evidenced in earlier elections.

Obviously, a discussion about the ins and outs of European cooperation is a good thing. However, such a discussion should be organised in a balanced and nuanced manner. In debates of euro-sceptics one often hears only shouting, one-liners and slogans. Nonetheless, it is the full story that should be told and explained.

So far, from the side of national governments there is hardly any input to this debate. Yet, an adequate response is desperately needed.

In order to tell the whole story it seems that three things are important:

1. To demonstrate the necessity and importance of international cooperation,

2. To explain the adequacy of the EU framework for that purpose and, connected to that,

3. To explain the originality of the decision-making procedures.

As to the need for international cooperation one merely has to refer to the global threats and challenges of today’s world, such as the economic crisis; asylum and immigration; environmental protection, climate change and energy; scarcity problems with regard to water and food; combat of poverty; and combat of terrorism. All issues mentioned are, one way or the other, related to our security. Moreover, because all of them have an international character, it is obvious that individual countries are not able any more to cope with these matters on their own. On the contrary, the need for international cooperation is clearly indicated.

In Europe we have an appropriate framework for cooperation between states at our disposal: the European Union with its institutions and legal instruments. Indeed, different from other international organisations where essentially decisions having a political character are produced, it is in the framework of the EU -a community of law- that policies can be truly developed.

Then, when one analyses the essentials of the decision-making procedures of the EU it becomes apparent that member states are in fact fully in control. Because, they -as ‘Herren der Verträge’- are the ones who negotiate and conclude the basic texts, the treaties. They are also the ones who -in the European Council, the framework of member states’ representatives at the highest political level- establish the general political guidelines including the policy priorities of the EU as well as the timetable for their completion.

It is only within the framework thus established by the member states themselves that the so-called supranational procedures are of application: the exclusive right of the Commission, (qualified) majority voting in the Council, and co-legislative competences for the European Parliament. Last but not least, the Court of Justice controls the legality of the acts of the institutions.

All these elements have their justification. The Commission operates in the general interest of the European Union and not with national interests in mind -which is the natural attitude of member states. Majority voting does contribute to the efficiency of the cooperation. The European Parliament is directly elected and their co-legislative (and co-budgetary) powers illustrate the democratic character of the process. Finally, the presence of an independent judiciary underlines the rule of law nature of the EU cooperation.

All in all, it is not difficult to argue that the EU decision-making process on an overall basis is a democratic one.

That being said, if there is a problem with regard to the popularity of the European Union -and there certainly is one- the problem is not so much related to the democratic character of the decision-making process but has to do with the legitimacy and the credibility of the process. Indeed, citizens are not aware of these elements or do not understand their exact meaning, and politicians do not explain them. Often one may even wonder whether politicians themselves do understand the process fully.

Be that as it may, the ‘distance’ between the citizen and the EU has become a serious and urgent problem and has to be overcome.

Of course, in order to solve these problems there rests a responsibility with the EU institutions, members of the European Parliament in the first place, the media and, certainly also, the citizen him or herself. Indeed, for ordinary people it is not difficult to be informed about all topical developments. One only has to consult the multitude of news sites available.

However, above all, the first to be held responsible in this process are national politicians: the members of national governments and parliaments. Members of national governments should present themselves as a dimension of an international layer of governance and have to explain the achievements of the Brussels’ discussions. They must provide information on how the process works and should not blame Brussels in case they have not been able to push their national points of view fully through. Members of national parliaments have to recognise that their European agenda gradually has become as so important, not to say more important, compared to the national one.

So, Brussels is us and we are Brussels!

The conclusion to be drawn from this is that in order to cope with the global challenges of today the EU framework is a suitable one. With regard to the objectives and the direction of the cooperation, the member states are the ones playing a determining role in the EU integration process. The supranational procedures are the instruments, nothing more and nothing less, allowing the European Union to implement the objectives set out by the member states themselves. Moreover, supranational decision-making serves the democratic character, the efficiency and the effectiveness of the overall process.

This has to be explained to the citizen. It is the primary role for the member states to do so.

Therefore, from a point of view of substance, citizens have all interest to cast their vote in elections to the European Parliament.

Politicians in their turn have to start working to explain the relevance of EU cooperation. They have to hurry up, the deadline until the end of May is short.

There is no time to lose!

Jaap W. de Zwaan

Secretary-General of TEPSA

Picture: © unitedexplanations

Editorial TEPSA Newsletter April 2014: “Democracy in the European Union: The importance of the European elections”, by Prof. Jaap de Zwaan, TEPSA Secretary General

All along the existence of the European Union -and its predecessor organisations- the question has been raised whether the EU decision making suffers from a democratic deficit. In fact without a lot of debate this question was always answered in the affirmative.

These days there are good reasons to argue that the decision making process at the European level is a democratic one.

Up to the eighties of the last century the European Parliament was referred to as an ‘assembly’, not as a parliament. In that period the parliament essentially possessed the right to deliver opinions in a certain number of policy areas. Since the end of the seventies, however, developments have gone fast. In 1979 the first direct election of the European Parliament members took place. The European Single Act (entry into force in 1987) introduced the cooperation procedure. The Maastricht Treaty (1993) improved the working of the cooperation procedure and added the co-decision procedure. The Amsterdam Treaty (1999) (abolished the cooperation procedure and) transformed the co-decision procedure into a properly speaking co-legislative instrument: without agreement between Council and European Parliament a decision cannot be adopted.

Finally but not least, the Lisbon Treaty (2009) widened the scope of application of the co-decision procedure and reinforced the competences of the parliament in the external domain (the competence to give consent). Furthermore, the treaty introduced the institutional innovation according to which the European Council, when proposing a candidate for President of the Commission, has to take into account the elections to the European Parliament. The candidate is then elected by the European Parliament. The Lisbon Treaty also produced two protocols on the role of national parliaments, one of which concerned the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.

Even if one takes into account the innovations brought by the Lisbon Treaty, still certain issues have to be settled regarding the working of the European Parliament. The first issue concerns the objection that, in the absence of a European ‘demos’, the parliament cannot pretend to represent the European citizens. Secondly there is the argument that the scope of the co-decision procedure –referred to in the treaties as the ‘ordinary legislative procedure’- is not as yet an absolute one. Furthermore criticism –expressed in practice by the highest constitutional judge in Germany, the Bundesverfassungsgericht- can be made regarding the composition of the parliament in view of the fact that during the elections once in five years the principle ‘one man one vote’ is not respected. The next point is related to the fact that the European Parliament, differently from an ordinary parliament, does not dispose of a -formal- right of initiative regarding policy making. And, additionally concerns are expressed regarding the lack of visibility of the members of the parliament (people hardly know members of the parliament) respectively the lack of transparency of their work.

Now, certainly it is true that -at least for the moment- a European demos does not exist. However, is that a real problem? In the context of the European Union cooperation the focus is more on Member States and the peoples of the Member States (Article 1 TEU refers to the ‘peoples of Europe’). That being the case it is difficult to criticize the existence of a parliament which operates in the interest of all these peoples. Then, indeed the scope of application of the co-decision procedure is not as yet an absolute one: a few policy domains, such as the common foreign and security policy, are not covered by this ‘ordinary’ decision making procedure. However, it may be expected –in conformity with the gradual character of the integration process- that this defect will be solved in the future, for example at the occasion of a next treaty amending procedure. As to the composition of the European Parliament, it is fair to say that the working of an international organisation (which the EU essentially is) cannot be fully compared with the functioning of a state. In that context there does exist a justification that, at the European level, the (federal) principle of equality of states has been preferred over the one regarding complete equality of their citizens, for example with regard to voting power. More particular it is the principle of ‘degressive’ proportionality which is of application -between the Member States- during the European elections.

Furthermore, it is true that the European Parliament does not possess a proper right of initiative regarding policy making. In view of the supranational characteristics of the EU cooperation the responsibility concerning the initiation of policies essentially rests with the Commission. The choice to make the Commission, the institution taking care of the general interest of the Union, responsible for the initiation of EU policy making, is an original one –in fact it is one of the foundations of the Schuman philosophy- which so far has proven to be effective. That being said, according to Article 225 TFEU the Parliament may request the Commission to submit an appropriate proposal on which it considers that a Union act is required. However, as is well known, the Commission is not obliged to give a positive follow-up to such a proposal. Finally, the observations regarding the lack of transparency and visibility concern more the legitimacy of the work of the parliament than that they demonstrate a problem regarding the democratic character of that work. That being said, of course something has to be done to overcome these objections. Here we touch upon the responsibility of a number of parties, such as the members of the European Parliament themselves, national politicians (members of national governments and members of national parliaments), but also the citizen him/herself who indeed can find easily numerous sources of information about EU activities on the internet.

So, as to all the objections and observations expressed an adequate answer can be provided.

If one then further analyses the working of the integration process globally speaking, one can establish that the Member States still play an essential role in policy making, as the architects of the treaties (‘Die Herren der Verträge’) and members of the European Council and the Council. On the other hand the Commission, in the interest of the European Union as a whole, performs the single and unique role as exclusive and independent policy initiator.

The directly elected European Parliament does represent the citizens of all Member States when being involved in the legislative process, the development of the EU external policies and the establishment of the EU budget. During the exercise of these responsibilities the European Parliament acts on equal footing with the Council, which means that without the agreement of the parliament no decision can be taken in these areas.

Finally but not least, national parliaments are in a position to control the activities of their ministers at the European level while also being able to survey the application, by the EU legislator, of the subsidiarity principle.

All in all it appears that the EU decision making process is composed of elements representing a careful balance between the interests of the European Union and the Member States on the one hand, and the interests of the citizens of the Member States on the other. In this process the European Parliament exercises important and typically parliamentary prerogatives.

The way this overall process functions in practice can be qualified as democratic, efficient and effective. At least hardly arguments are available to convincingly demonstrate that the process is undemocratic in character.

For all those reasons one only can hope that during the European elections of 22 to 25 May a high turnout will be achieved. The parliament deserves our vote!

Jaap W. de Zwaan
TEPSA Secretary-General

Column “The European Parliament, the winner takes it all”, by Prof. Jaap de Zwaan, TEPSA Secretary General

WeuropeanparlYe have witnessed an interesting institutional struggle between Member States and the European Parliament about the designation of the personality to become the new Commission President. According to the innovation brought by the Lisbon Treaty the European Council should take into account the results of the European elections once proposing a candidate for President of the Commission.

As to the question how to apply this innovation, the Parliament developed long before the elections of last May a strategy. The idea was to designate candidates of each political grouping, the understanding being that the group who would end in the European elections as ‘biggest’ would be entitled to deliver the Commission’s new president. When it became clear that the Christian Democrats came out of the elections as biggest group, the Parliament presented former Prime Minister and former Euro Group Chairman Jean Claude Juncker as their candidate for the Commission’s Presidency.

Now, by not reacting to this strategy and in any case by not contesting the appropriateness of the approach of the European Parliament, Member States in fact lost on beforehand the possibility to object against these suggestions after the elections. Indeed we have seen initiatives of individual and groups of heads of state and government who objected against Jean Claude Juncker. However, all these objections were in vain. Cameron even went so far as linking a possible nomination of Juncker to a withdrawal of his country from the European Union. How far one can fall, and what a weighing of national interests in the British capital ……… !

Anyhow, the European Council who met on 26 and 27 June has accepted Juncker as their candidate. The decision was taken by qualified majority since unanimity was not required. A hot discussion about the further composition of the group is still to come.

In conclusion, the European Parliament has operated cleverly. In the end the Parliament has not only appointed the new Commission President but also selected the person concerned.

Picture : © europarl.europa.eu

Editorial TEPSA Newsletter July 2014: “TEPSA: new opportunities in spite of setback”, by Prof. Jaap de Zwaan, TEPSA Secretary General

tepsaYou may have learnt already that the Trans European Policy Studies Association (TEPSA) has recently received the news that its application for a 2014-2017 operating grant under the Europe for Citizens programme of the European Commission was not selected. This development has come as a great surprise and disappointment for all involved, since TEPSA is a unique network organisation doing excellent work in promoting knowledge and discussion on EU matters in all member states of the European Union and other interested countries.

TEPSA is unique because it is composed of European Studies Institutes in all the member states of the EU and candidate member states. It also includes a number of associate members that are of pan-European nature. TEPSA organises a variety of activities, joint activities in a broad range of EU policy domains such as the Pre-Presidency Conferences –conferences in the capital of the incoming Presidency of the Council of the EU- and joint projects of all kind. The aim being to stimulate discussion on EU policies, to conduct research on topical subject matters and to stimulate interactions among researchers, policy makers and other interested persons. TEPSA also pays special attention to training young people, future researchers and policy makers. Many young people have benefitted from the TEPSA experience, either by participating in various TEPSA activities such as summer schools, professional skills trainings and seminars. Moreover, cooperation in a bilateral context, between TEPSA member institutes, takes place on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, as a non-profit organization and in view of the multitude of activities, TEPSA cannot function without financial support from external sources. In fact, TEPSA has been able to profit for a long time from a structural support by the European Union. Now, imagine that such a precious network would disappear from the stage. It would be a terrible loss, not only for the member institutes but also, I dare to say, for the member states and, even, for the European Union as such. Indeed, in practice TEPSA really fulfils a crucial role to bring EU cooperation closer to the ordinary citizen and in translating national policy debates to the EU scene.

Therefore there are enough reasons to do our utmost to allow TEPSA to continue its activities. We all must act now, the Board, the Brussels based staff and the partner institutes themselves. The Board has already discussed a variety of options. TEPSA’s member institutes in the capitals will reflect about possibilities to intervene at the political level in their country and to inform relevant partners. Also options are in the making to actively look for alternative financial resources for TEPSA, for example by outsourcing tasks from TEPSA members to the TEPSA office in Brussels. Apart from these ideas the Board would welcome initiatives taken by others aiming to allow TEPSA to continue working.

While trying to obtain the needed support, TEPSA will continue its flagship activities like the TEPSA Pre-Presidency Conferences and its bi-monthly Newsletter (TEPSA’s Pre-Presidency Conference in Riga will take place on 4 and 5 December and the Pre-Presidency Conference in Luxembourg in the first week of June 2015). The situation furthermore allows TEPSA to reflect about its core objectives and added value. In doing so, it is TEPSA’s ambition to open new horizons for its future.