“Europe must become a pole otherwise we are becoming objects of history”, Klaus Welle said.
A new strategic paper, not yet public, underscores the rising complexity of world affairs and identifies four trends which the European Parliament and other EU institutions should master in order not to be sidelined by the course of events.
The multi-polarity of the globalised world, the multi-level governance, the multiplication of players interacting with lawmakers and technology accelerating the speed of change are all elements that will affect directly or indirectly the European Parliament, reads the paper, which calls for more effective crisis management.
Competitive advantage to manage complexity
Management cannot think just in terms of budget periods, explains Welle, but needs to look at governance structures, which last for 10-15 years.
Looking at multi-level governance structures, the European Parliament needs to rethink its link with the national level, but tackle the rising complexity of the developing global system, Welle argues.
“Complexity can frighten uniform organisations, but we are an extremely complex organisation, where our members are participating to all kind of networks. We have a competitive advantage,” Welle added, underlining that MEPs will be prepared for change if they strengthen their content competence.
Not foreign policy, but Weltinnenpolitik
The European Parliament has strengthened its in-house content capacity over the recent months “so that we are not dependent on lobbyists and others,” Welle noted.
Also, the division in delegations allows lawmakers to become specialists in different regions of the world. Two years ago, the Parliament took the “bold decision” to open an office in Washington.
The EU-U.S. relationship is no longer an executive, but rather a legislative relationship, Welle said, arguing that Weltinnenpolitik or 'global domestic policy' is more appropriate than foreign policy to describe the current network of transatlantic ties.
Reshaping cooperation with national parliaments
More needs to be done, however, to strengthen ties with national parliaments and prevent the risk of political and regulatory fragmentation, noted the EP administration chief.
Since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, which has given a greater scrutiny role to national parliaments, the Parliament has invested in building a better structure to boost exchanges with their national counterparts.
“The key issue nevertheless will be whether MPs and MEPs start to cooperate expert-to-expert,” Welle said, explaining that parliamentarians in charge of agriculture should talk to their counterparts rather than talk through the European affairs committees.
“That’s clearly the way forward, but national parliaments are not fully there,” he added.
Looking at the debt-led crisis and the institutional changes that have shaken the Union, the Parliament’s secretary-general said we need to have perspective.
“I would bet that historians will say one day that it happened at the speed of light,” he said, referring to the intergovernmental decision-making that has led to the adoption of the fiscal compact by EU leaders earlier this year. "We are finding solutions because of the necessity," he added, noting that the new institutional changes would have not been politically acceptable in the past.
"These are major steps forward in European integration."