It’s striking that the Czech constitutional court announced its approval of the European Union’s Lisbon treaty on Tuesday morning just as the prospect of another Russian gas import crisis began to loom on the EU’s horizon. For even though the news from Prague is welcome, a moment’s reflection is all you need to remind yourself that the Lisbon treaty will, in and of itself, do very little to help the EU address its most serious foreign and economic policy problems.
The sheer sense of relief at adopting a new EU treaty – it’s taken eight years, required two different texts, gone through three failed referendums and caused endless trouble in countries such as the Czech Republic, Ireland and the UK – risks fostering the delusion that everything will be better once Lisbon is in force. But this is to fall into the trap of assuming that process can substitute for substance (see Monday’s blog on how the same fallacy affects the EU’s approach to relations with other big powers). Read more
On Tuesday a numerically impressive delegation of Europeans will be in Washington for the first formal US-European Union summit since Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration last January. Fredrik Reinfeldt, Sweden’s prime minister, will be there in his capacity as leader of the country that holds the EU’s rotating presidency. So will Carl Bildt, Sweden’s foreign minister. So will Javier Solana, the EU’s head of foreign policy. So will Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU’s external affairs commissioner. So will José Manuel Barroso, the Commission president – and from what I hear, a few other bigwigs are going along for the ride as well.
This is quite a turnout. It would be nice to think it reflects an exceptionally warm and constructive relationship between the Obama administration and its EU allies. But as a timely new report by the European Council on Foreign Relations points out, the real picture is less rosy. “To Americans, these summits are all too typical of the European love of process over substance, and a European compulsion for everyone to crowd into the room regardless of efficiency,” write the authors, Nick Witney and Jeremy Shapiro. Read more