Major questions to be answered

Krisztina Vida
Highly active President of the European Council coupled with weaker role of the rotating presidency
As regards his new position, Herman Van Rompuy has pledged to fully implement the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty and to use his powers to the utmost possible. In the opinion of a high official at the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,[1] Van Rompuy is absolutely acting according to his words. He is very active in representing the Union towards third countries and under his Presidency of the European Council, the role of the rotating presidency at the European Council level has significantly decreased. Van Rompuy is acting rather autonomously vis-à-vis the Council. Although there is cooperation with the actual presidency at both the Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) and Council levels, the President is preparing the conclusions of the European Council on his own, assisted, however, by the Secretary General of the Council. The conclusions themselves became shorter, more concise and more streamlined. Before finalising the text, the President takes up only those suggestions from the member states, which represent substantial change (no “stylistic” corrections are accepted).

Much needed leadership in times of crisis

A.D. Papagiannidis and Nikos Frangakis
The Lisbon Treaty was awaited with interest – if not with trepidation – in Greece, where ratification had proceeded smoothly, while the mainstream political forces, the media and academia were expecting that institutional change would serve as an incentive for a more active Europe.[1] The fact that new provisions of the Lisbon Treaty started working just as a severe, real-time crisis situation was underway (even more so, a crisis in which Greece was instrumental indeed) served to make the treaty’s implementation and the Union’s institutional mechanisms in general a major issue.
The figure of Herman Van Rompuy was initially greeted with some reluctance, although not in a negative way, given the lack of “international stature” of the Belgian ex-Prime Minister. References to his consensus-building prowess or even to his haiku-writing were often found in the media; but when the Greek debt crisis (and the search for some sort of “European solution”) erupted, Van Rompuy’s role in conducting European Council Summit operations, especially in March 2010, and in bridging the bitter differences between Germany and France or rather between Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, brought him centre-stage in Greece.

The next best choice

Julie Herschend Christoffersen

The “Next best Choice” was the way in which the left-wing newspaper Information described the choice of Herman Van Rompuy.[1] He might not be an international showstopper, but he is considered valuable because of his strong analytical sense and ability to create consensus. The Danish Prime Minister (PM) Lars Løkke Rasmussen emphasised this point when asked if he thought that the new President of the European Council was too unknown for the prestigious job: “You can be very good at your job, even if you are not well-known”.[2] The Danish Member of European Parliament (MEP) Jens Rohde, also from the PM’s Liberal party, did not agree with Løkke. He thought that Van Rompuy was chosen so as not to overshadow the heads of the national governments.[3]

The Czech Republic – neglecting implementation because of treaty ratification hangover?

Mats Braun

The Czech Republic was the last country to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. The late and dramatic Czech ratification of the treaty has been followed by a certain “treaty ratification hangover” which has manifested itself through little media interest in the implementation process of the treaty. At the same time, the political situation in the country, with a low profile caretaker cabinet in office, has had the consequence that the country lacks a clear vision of its priorities during the implementation phase. However, to the extent that there is a coherent Czech view on the implementation, this is a perspective that tones down the potential political dimension of the new offices and institutions introduced by the treaty, and prefers to view them as technicalities. From the Czech perspective, the President of the European Council should be a moderator, while the European External Action Service (EEAS) is preferably discussed as an expert team and not as a real diplomatic corpus, a European ministry of foreign affairs or something along those lines.

Van Rompuy received more attention than Ashton

Senada Šelo Šabić

The Council President received media attention with regard to Croatia’s accession negotiations