The view from Brussels: EU summit successful

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The French EU Presidency recorded victories regarding the future of the Lisbon Treaty and the economic recovery and climate change packages at last week’s EU summit, argues Eberhard Rhein, a lecturer on economic policy at the Malta-based Mediterranean Academy for Diplomatic Studies, in a post on Blogactiv.

The author praises the French Presidency for focusing on the “breaking points” presented by Poland for the climate change deal and Ireland for the Lisbon Treaty.

Rhein hails French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s success in “settling these issues bilaterally before or during the meeting,” maintaining that he was helped in this by being “strict in cutting all irrelevant discussions”. 

In an attempt to resolve the impasse over the Lisbon Treaty, the EU Council made concessions to Ireland by allowing it to keep its commissioner, Rhein recalls. The drawback of this, he says, is that the European Commission will now “either have to enforce changes in the way it works or put a lid on future enlargements”. 

Reaching a deal on the way forward for the Lisbon Treaty was “wise” in view of the fact that the EU will be led by the Czechs in the first half of 2009, where key political figures such as President Vaclav Klaus are “anti-Lisbon”. 

As for the EU recovery plan, the author describes it as “a compilation of the programmes member countries would have already adopted or are due to adopt in the near future”. 

Rhein concedes that although unimpressive in his eyes, the rescue plan is important as it will generate “an economic scale effect” enabling EU countries to justify “their programmes domestically against opposition parties or public opinion”. 

Rhein praises Sarkozy for having “managed to save the essential elements” of the climate change package, despite the economic crisis and strong pressure from Poland to soften the climate measures. 

To obtain unanimity on the climate change deal, the author describes how the French EU Presidency had to make major concessions to Central and Eastern European countries over the “auctioning of emission rights for power generation”. 

While this concession may have been “excessive”, Rhein claims it was necessary “in view of the urgency to adopt the package”. 

Rhein concludes that the EU summit was a success as “no other country, let alone regional entity, has been able to define its medium-term climate policy” in such a way as the bloc managed to achieve last week. 

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