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You are here: Home > Diritto di Voto / EU, Italy, Turin > EP2024_007: First lights - #European #Parliament #elections

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Published on 2024-06-25 21:50:00 | words: 1913


Let's assume that you read all the previous articles in this series (i.e. around up to 10,000 words plus a 2,000 words preamble).

The "commentary" part of this article will contain a summary of what happened across the last two weeks since the European Parliament elections.

If you read the EP2024Series_00 The tumbleweed of EU decision-making European Parliament elections introductory article, or even just the page focused on the 2024 elections, you know that this series will extend up to the end of 2024.

In two weeks there will be the first plenary session of the newly elected European Parliament- at least, this is what was scheduled.

The first steps after the elections were described within a Euronews article from 2024-03-01:
" The 10th legislature will start on 16 July, the date of the first plenary sitting. That day, the 720 MEPs will elect the Parliament's president, 14 vice-presidents and five quaestors.

The first sitting will last until 19 July and will see the selection of committees and subcommittees. But the chairmanship positions, which the main groups traditionally divvy up in a game of horse-trading, will be announced in the days following the plenary."

The title of this "episode" of this series includes the "first lights" concept: in reality, in 2019 what happened was not really "light", but "dark"- sidelined the "Spitzenkandidat" of the winning "family", a new compromise candidate was selected, who won by a small margin.

Therefore, the next four articles (July and August 2024) will be focused on the negotiation process.

Many assume that the key difference between business and politics is that a business contract, once signed, has to be implemented as agreed, while a political agreement is different.

Frankly, notably in services, many contracts do not include enough information to be implemented "as is"- it is part of the implementation to blend plans with reality.

Whenever I see politicians presenting a "contract" with voters, I start laughing: because in politics you have even less direct control on resources and context, and therefore adaptability is the key.

Considering how long is the journey to finally get a new European Commission, there will be plenty of post-elections adjustments.

And considering the context we have been living in since a string of crises started in 2020 (beginning with COVID), adjustments will have to be followed by adjustments and a convergence of choices.

The key element is that, while the first two weeks after the elections will be probably focused on understanding the real relative potential, the next couple of weeks could aim to identify which scenarios could make sense at the European Union level- and how could impact at the national level.

Because, until we will have purely European elections, even the most obvious positive choices at the European Union level will have to be reassessed by each party involved (not just the "political families" within the European Parliament) in terms of national impacts.

It is just Real-Politik


This episode of the EP2024 series was supposed to go online on June 29th, i.e. after the meeting that should confirm the choices of the leading roles: Commission, Council, and what we could call our representative abroad.

Anyway, decided to share a short commentary but before the meetings, as apparently there is a common consensus between key Member States to confirm the incumbent at the European Commission, select Costa for the Council, and Kallas for the "foreign affairs".

Personally, considering the debate that was ongoing before the selection, I found puzzling the choices- more apt for a transition than for a pivotal moment where many threads will converge.

Let's say that the push to get a confirmation generated a dynamics that is slightly different from what could be needed- more a "look over the shoulder" to avoid the risk of a further reinforcement and detachment, than a delegation of power to enable moving faster.

Anyway, being 27 and having at the helm for another term a former Minister of Defence of the largest Member State (and largest economy within the EU), and politicians from two smaller states for the two other key roles implies also avoiding having a balancing act: would you imagine what would have happened if really, as some Italian proposed, Enrico Letta had been proposed for the Council, and maybe a French at the "foreign affairs" (yes, I refuse to use the official title)?

It would have seemed the EU of the three leading countries, leaving little say in conducting affairs to all the other 24.

The composition of the actually European Commission for the next term, both if the three "pre-emptive appointments" will stand or will be replaced (as happened in 2019), of if there will be a need for some replacements due to some of the potential events that have been discussed over the last few months, will be as usual a balancing act.

The key difference being that the EU is acknowledged to be the best at regulation, and internally as well as externally since 2019 we regulated with gusto, and now would be the right time to renovate the European structures, to be better able to cope with the ongoing and potential challenges.

Including energy security and our own demographic trends.

As discussed in the previous episode, personally I am one of those who think that President Macron did a bold yet reasonable bet- a bet that could probably win, if he were not to increasingly sound a bit as those French and European politicians and Eurocrats who pushed for that quixotic document called the "European Constitution" of sort, that frankly was as boring as an utilities contract- not something to build the fabric of a European society on.

Good for lawyers, not for citizens- but sold with an arrogant "trust us": and we all know the results.

How did we escape from the European Constitution failure? With yet another bit of European Tinkering.

I might disagree on their political proposals, but I concur with many from centre, left, right who nicknamed the Lisbon Treaty as yet another bit of "European Patchwork"- a supreme tinkering exercise that we Italian are master at.

Anyway, something was needed after the failure to convince citizens to support that "utilities contract" sold as a Constitution with an attitude akin to a used car salesrep.

The overall resulting archicture was a bit frail as it assumed that so many things would work as planned that seemed closer to a theoretical plan for a chemical plant, than to a political architecture.

And that, in many areas (e.g. technology and defence), we kept piling up "decision makers" and "committees" is a clear sign that we Italians exported somehow our approach: something does not work? There is not political will to really fix it as this would disappoint some parties involved in keeping it all together?

Nul problemo- let's add another layer and more "synchronization points".

Which results in decision-making times worth of Methuselah (but I like better the Italian name that studied while studying the Bible as a kid, Matusalemme).

With a small issue: if you suppose that you can live 1,000 years more or less, you can take your time- pity that we live in a world of autocrats and faster reaction times, so we kept since the 1950 leapfrogging our own concepts to obtain decisions.

The Monnet approach was just the most visible example, but almost 20 years ago, while studying to set up a new service to support local authorities, I received and read various examples of bureaucratic bits created by those having access to the right mix of expertise needed for that task, but apparently assuming that even those on the receiving end would have access to a similar mix.

Will the three announced choices weak enough to be able to be guided through decisions that will have an impact long after the term starting soon will have ended (so far, only the Santer Commission shortened its own term)?

Or will they turn into unsupervised free agents pushing forward an agenda that will develop between themselves and by building de facto coalitions with some Member States, echoing the approach that a UK diplomat almost two decades ago in Brussels, while presenting a book, said had been the UK approach: to be the balancing act on each table, having each time a different group of members to the consensus, so that the only constant would be UK presence?

With Brexit, UK left, but the approach could be revived- what we call in Italy "politica dei (set your number here) forni", i.e. having other parties outbid each other to be on the winning side.

In Italy, we are currently doing again the same experiment that was tried decades ago, to have regions potentially take care of their own Foreign Direct Investment- at the time, was told that this way some foreign companies pitted region against region, only to raise the price with... a foreign location that they were really interested in.

Similar approach, similar results: not a structural, strategic choice, but a gameplay that results in structural instability, as then each time a choice is needed, time to start again negotiating on multiple tables.

Net result? If this approach were to be the "new EU acquis", we would have two main potential classes outcomes, and varying degrees in between:
_ a strategy that defines itself but with no real oversight- i.e. the EU institutions driving themselves, with dubious long-term sustainability
_ a continuous adjustment that could be at best called "tinkering supreme", too whimsical to predict (and to rely on).

Like it or not, if the European Union is to consolidate and develop a posture, it has to be something that is structurally cohesive, as many of the changes needed would take probably a generation or two to be implemented.

Otherwise, we can get more and more impromptu decisions that are then supported by Member States only to avoid being disruptive, decisions that are founded on less-then-structured analysis, and could generate the need for more fixes.

Again, something that we Italian have been used to do for decades- surviving, but not thriving, also when we sometimes invested resources that fairly exceeded what some more ordinary countries did.

As I wrote above, whatever the choice for the top roles, it will be the mix that will matter (and the structural element surrounding them).

Personally, while waiting to see the end results, will watch again "Yes, Minister".

Stay tuned!