Leadership in the EU


Kenneth Armstrong, Queen Mary University of London

Writing in European Voice in November 2010, Tim King highlighted the problem of finding a definite answer to the question “Who leads Europe”? http://bit.ly/aNNWFt. Indeed it is a problematic question to answer without reference to either time or substance. Look at the response to the financial crisis. The first incumber of the new post-Lisbon position of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy took it upon himself to establish a Task Force to come up with proposals for reforms to economic governance. President Barroso of the Commission fought back with a suite of Commission Proposals and an alliance has been formed with the EP (through the EP’s new post-Lisbon powers of co-decision) to adopt a package that won’t be watered down by the Council. All of which makes for interesting inter-institutional dynamics: but is everyone just dancing to Germany’s tune? A plausible case can be made that Germany is running the show in all sorts of ways. The German Constitutional Court has placed limits on the capacity of Germany to participate in European integration: hence the need for further treaty reform to institutionalize the European Financial Stability Facility. A stray word or too from Angela Merkel and the next thing the Irish knew, the IMF was on an Aer Lingus flight to Dublin. The idea of Eurobonds sinks or swims depending on Germany’s attitude. But perhaps the true lesson is that at the moment, it is the bond market that is leading Europe with everyone else responding to its dictates. So, to answer the question, leadership is found in different parts of the puzzle: its just much harder to join the peices together to provide a coherent image of where power and influence lies … so no pressure on our panelists then.