Gonzalez voices bold ambitions for EU ‘reflection group’

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Former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez wants to restore Europe’s economic and geopolitical influence on the global stage as the head of a new ‘reflection group’ launched by EU leaders at a summit in December. However, the question of whether it will deal with enlargement remains open.

Gonzalez said he wants to deliver a “wake-up call” to EU leaders when the reflection group presents its report in 2010. He was speaking to the Financial Times in an interview published on 15 January 2008.

“We are losing influence in the geopolitical sphere. We are losing influence in economic and technological terms, and as a result, we are also becoming less relevant to our citizens by losing competitiveness and value,” the former Spanish leader told the newspaper. He added that he also sought to tackle the issue of Europe’s energy dependency and wants EU leaders to reconsider their position on nuclear power.

European heads of state and government in December agreed on a mandate for a “reflection group”, which should make proposals regarding the EU’s long-term future up until 2020-2030 (see EURACTIV 17/12/07). Gonzalez was appointed to chair the new group, along with two deputies – former Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and the former chief executive officer of Finnish electronics group Nokia, Jorma Ollila. The nine other members are yet to be selected.

Initially, the group was envisaged as a “group of wise men” by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who wanted its mandate to focus on defining Europe’s final borders – in what most considered an attempt to block Turkey’s efforts to join the EU. However, the mandate was adjusted to account for more pro-Turkey EU nations, such as the UK, which wants to see the committee focus on the economic, environmental and security challenges of the future. 

When asked about this, Gonzalez tried to avoid the issue by saying that the relevant question was not “what is Europe” but rather whether citizens are willing to share a common project.

The reflection group is due to present its report to a meeting of the European Council in June 2010.

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