Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
The European Union talks frequently about wanting to be a bigger player in the world, about making its political influence match its economic weight and the need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States.
And at least in one respect it can now say it’s America’s equal – both have a State of the Union address.
Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, delivered his inaugural State of the Union speech to the European Parliament on Tuesday, a sweeping assessment of where the bloc of 27 countries stands and what it needs to do to be better in the future, tapping a similar vein to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress in January.
But beyond the matching titles, and some common themes, there were few similarities, at least from a rhetorical point of view.
The European Union can rarely have been more in need of a
show of unity than now, as it tries to convince financial
markets it can handle the euro zone’s debt crisis.
Hardly a day goes by without a European leader underlining
the need to act together, but hardly a day passes without signs of
differences among them that undermine the impression of unity.
Who do you call when you want to speak to Europe? The question, long attributed to Henry Kissinger, has yet to be answered convincingly by the 27-country European Union.
Six months ago, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told a news conference the person to call on foreign policy issues was Catherine Ashton, who had just been chosen as the European Union’s foreign affairs chief. The “so-called Kissinger issue is now solved”, he said.
Never let it be said that the European Union doesn’t get things done.
It may have a slightly maddening way of going about it — last-minute, late-night summits, hours and hours of sweaty, closed-door negotiation, multiple conflicting plans put forward by the likes of the Finns, the Italians and, who knows, the Estonians – and then, hey presto, like the proverbial rabbit out of a hat, at 2 in the morning, a $1 trillion deal to haul the world back from the debt-crisis abyss. All in the name of European unity.
As one Brussels policy analyst put it somewhat delphically : “The EU is not crisis resistant, but perhaps it is crisis proof.”
There was more a sense of relief than joy when the European Union finally got its new executive on Tuesday. These are difficult times for the EU and there is little to celebrate.
The new European Commission is taking office in a tough economic climate, with the 16-country euro zone facing its hardest test since the single currency came into being 11 years ago.