The Swedish EU Presidency

The good news, if you’re an EU fan, is that the Czech Republic presidency mercifully came to an end starting today. From start to finish, it was a bumpy, amateurish ride, as this EU Observer wrap-up entertainingly illustrates. (The fun stuff starts about halfway through.) There were some accomplishments, although in typical EU fashion, it’s hard to tell how lasting they will be.

The French obstructionism highlighted by the article might not raise eyebrows, since France already has the reputation of being arrogant with regard to the smaller and newer member states. But it contrasts with France’s support and assistance to the Slovenian EU presidency, which used French diplomatic resources to supplement its own meager global presence. So the chilling effect is not so much on the “Big Bang” member states as on independent-minded ones. The Czech Republic didn’t help its cause, though, by demonstrating an other-worldly incompetence.

The not-so-good news, though, is that the Swedish EU presidency, which kicks off today, has got a pretty tall order to fill. It’s facing severe institutional uncertainty, since the new structures mandated by the Lisbon Treaty still depend on the Irish re-referendum in October. Even in the event the treaty passes the Irish hurdle, it will mean political jockeying for the newly established positions.

It also coincides with a newly elected EU Parliament and a new mandate for the EU Commission, which will likely entail some fresh faces and most importantly, as pointed out by the EU Observer, “fresh power currents.” Meanwhile, any realistic hope of generating movement on climate change, placed at the center of the Swedish presidency’s agenda, has been hobbled by the global economic downturn.

So if things can’t really get much worse, there’s no guarantee they’ll get much better. And if that’s not the EU in a nutshell, I’m not sure what is.

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