EU Summit:Preparing the eternal promise of tomorrow’s giant

The European Union has always been, is and will always be, the promise of tomorrow. The Summit which began today in Barcelona confirmed this.

Two years ago, in Lisbon, the EU Summit ended on an optimistic note. It was declared that the main objectives for the forthcoming years would be job creation schemes, modernising the economic model and making the EU the most competitive area in the world economy by 2010. Tough objectives, but underachieved.

The Lisbon Summit set up a perpetual motion mechanism to monitor progress in these areas, integrated in the Barcelona Summit. Two years on, the signs are clear that the performance of the EU as a whole yet again deserves a black mark.

The European Union has inherited all the baggage of the histories of its 15 member states. Inherent in this baggage are trends which go against the grain of establishing an equilibrium between social and economic dimension and the need to make more progress in the liberalisation of certain more sensitive sectors. With state protectionism at various stages of phasing-in or phasing-out, the EU has a long way to go if it wants to be in the vanguard of the wave of neo-liberalism sweeping through the world’s economies, as a unified block.

One of the most important issues at the Barcelona Summit is the question of the gas and electricity industries in the European Union. Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission, declared in med-week that if this energy sector was not opened up, the industry itself and its consumers would lose 15 billion Euro per year. Independent analysts declare that the failure to open up the energy sector to private investment seriously threatens the credibility of the EU.

France is the main instigator of opposition to the liberalisation of this sector, one which has been strongly protected by Paris. However, so near to the electoral process, neither President Jacques Chirac nor Prime Minister Lionel Jospin will want to rock the boat of a highly unionised sector of the French economy. Repercussions would be felt in the electorate.

As usual, the probable outcome will be split positions and compromise, hardly what is expected of a grouping which wishes to firmly take hold of the reins of the world economy within ten years. The result is expected to be a partial calendar for liberalisation of the electricity sector, in 2004, and later, for the industrial sector and private consumers.

The motto of the European Imperial powers was “divide, et impera” (divide and rule). What would appear to be the case nowadays is that the EU is too divided to rule even its own back yard.


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