Volcano spews up more criticism of EU

April 20, 2010
Ash and steam rise from an erupting volcano near Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland

Ash and steam rise from an erupting volcano near Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland

The Icelandic volcano that has caused havoc with European travel has also spewed up more criticism of the European Union.

A travel-affected European Parliament session on Tuesday turned into a forum for bashing the EU and other European authorities over the response to the crisis.

Some members of the assembly said the EU had responded too slowly to the ash cloud by taking several days to get EU transport ministers together to discuss the crisis.

“Our reactions were late and fragmented. There was no attempt to cooperate between airlines to direct the flows of passengers and use as much as possible the still available routes,” said Marian-Jean Marinescu, a centre-right member of the assembly.

Other critics suggest European authorities were somewhat hasty in cancelling flights so quickly or should be doing more to get planes in the air again.

 Philip Bradbourn, a British Conservative in the European parliament, complained of poor management of the crisis. “We … seem to have been in a position of almost licking our finger and sticking it in the air to see which way the wind is blowing,” he said.

Pat the Cope Gallagher, an Irish member of the parliament, suggested that involving all the 27 EU member states in decisions had proved a problem. “We must deal with this from the centre and agree that dealing with it from 27 perspectives or countries is not successful,” he said.

The EU executive, the European Commission, found itself once again defending its actions.

“To say that the European model completely failed is absolutely wrong,” European Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas told the parliament.

Spanish European Affairs Minister Diego Lopez Garrido, whose country holds the EU presidency, said member states had produced a “coordinated” and “dynamic” response.

As so often happens, it was perhaps a case of the EU being damned for taking action and damned if hadn’t done — it was never going to please everyone.

But such criticism is another blow to the EU’s image at a time when its leadership is under scrutiny over Greece’s debt crisis, the surprise choice for the bloc’s president and external affairs chief, and implementation of its Lisbon reform treaty.  It is also another unwelcome blow to its efforts to enhance its image on the world stage.

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