Event report: Roundtable discussion on ‘The European Council and crisis management’

The Central Library attended the roundtable discussion on ‘The European Council and crisis management‘ on 16 February 2016, organised by the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS).

The participants at this roundtable were:

  • Danuta Hübner, MEP, Chair of the Constitutional Affairs Committee, (find out what is available in the Library collection here)
  • Peter Ludlow, EuroComment, (find out what is available in the Library collection here)
  • Desmond Dinan, Professor of Public Policy, George Mason University (find out what is available in the Library collection here) and
  • Didier Seeuws, Director, former Head of Cabinet of the President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy.
  • Joséphine Vanden Broucke, acting Head of the European Council Oversight and Scrutiny Unit of the European Parliamentary Research Service, was the moderator.

Joséphine Vanden Broucke recalled that, over the last few years, the European Union has faced an increasing number of crises of a very different nature, ranging from the sovereign debt crisis to foreign policy crises – (Ukraine and Libya for example) – and the on-going refugee crisis. The European Parliamentary Research Service carried out an in-depth analysis examining the role played by the European Council and its president in managing crises.

Didier Seeuws pointed out that consensus in the European Council is quite often a pre-requisite for decision-making in the EU (‘when a matter goes to the European Council, you have to try to reach consensus’). Europe is more than the EU; it is also the sum of bilateral relations between member states. The fact that the heads of state and government participate in the European Council gives ownership.

The effectiveness of the institution depends largely on the political determination of its members to agree on a solution; leaders meet to reconcile national interests. The Lisbon Treaty changed the Institution but not the ‘club’. A permanent and dedicated chair enabled more effective crisis management.

Danuta Hübner focused her remarks on the relationship between the European Parliament and the European Council. She considers that it is important to look at the formalisation of the relationship between the European Council and the European Parliament, as it is in respect of other institutions.

Desmond Dinan stressed that the euro crisis and the refugee crisis have been the two most serious crises the EU has experienced, because they affect the core of the EU: the euro crisis affects the euro and the single market, whilst the refugee crisis poses a threat to Schengen. Both the single currency and Schengen were built on ‘wishful thinking’. He also added that these crises had changed the EU: economic nationalism, primacy of national interests…

On the question of how to make the European Council more accountable, Peter Ludlow is convinced that the heads of state and government would never accept it. However, a kind of bicameral system, with representatives of the European Parliament and the national parliaments, whose job would be to scrutinize the European Council, might be an idea to consider in a revision of the treaty.

Link to EPRS blog post on same event.

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