Politics & Economics

The Boulder Slowing Down Europe

December 2023
By Gianni Pittella

No good decision is ever made unanimously. (David Fincher).

The fact that another European legislative term is coming to an end and the action of the European Council continues to be governed by the rule of unanimity, meaning the concordant vote of all the heads of government of the EU Member States, is the real ball and chain preventing the adoption of quick and necessary decisions in the face of internal and external challenges to the EU.

But can we resort to the “go to the bathroom when voting if you disagree” trick to allow the European Council to open accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova? The green light was facilitated by the decision of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to leave the room. Postponed, precisely because of Orbán’s opposition, was the agreement on the revision of the EU budget and aid to Kyiv.

The method is quite unseemly, but that’s how it proceeds.

The history of the EU is marked by the power of veto that every single State can use to block or at least to blackmail, to negotiate.

Do you remember the Empty Chair Crisis?

It’s the crisis that broke out in 1965, when the establishment of an autonomous community budget was proposed (to be financed not with contributions from the member states but with levies and customs duties), and a strengthening of the powers of the European Parliament.

France’s reaction was extremely harsh, leading the French to desert the Community’s work.

The empty chair policy, that is, the absence and boycott of all sessions of the community bodies resulting in the halt of the Community’s activity, lasted for seven months, despite attempts by the other five member countries to reach an agreement with France.

But even on the ESM, a topic of current relevance, the rule of unanimity weighs heavily.

Now, in my opinion, the Italian center-right majority made a glaring mistake by not ratifying the Treaty that the Italian Government had helped to amend.

A mistake because it deprives us of a possible tool in case of need, absolutely not mandatory, and prevents other Governments that would want to use it from doing so, precisely because of the principle of unanimity, as the ESM Treaty is not usable by anyone unless ratified by all.

But apart from such a very critical assessment on my part, it’s legitimate to ask what needs to happen for the simplest and most essential reform of the EU to be realized?

Can we continue with the noose of unanimity and presume to be a model of democracy and efficiency?

At the top of the programs that will be presented for the next European elections, can it be written that even in the European Council decisions are made by some form of majority voting?

Every political force should state this clearly and take responsibility!