The EU Spring Summit has spurred a limited number of critical comments in the press.
The Financial Times editorial limits itself to commenting on the walkout of French president Jacques Chirac when UNICE president Ernest-Antoine Seillière chose to address the summit in English. The FT points out that the successful business school INSEAD teaches in English, and the company language of Danone is not French, but English.
In France, Le Monde reports German Chancellor Angela Merkel as condemning protectionist tendencies during an EPP leaders’ meeting on Thursday (23 March). Referring to the defensive Suez-GdF merger in France and to the Spanish government's attempt at blocking a bid from Germany's E.On in Spain, Merkel invited her European counterparts “not to think only in national terms”, but also to “agree on European champions”. “Otherwise, she said, the European market would have no meaning”. In a chronicle, Thomas Ferenzci asks whether the EU’s “community spirit” is still alive.
Left-leaning Libération writes about a “relatively soft consensus, well below the recommendations put forward in the Commission’s Green Paper”. “Member states have in fact refused to give away a part of their national prerogatives, satisfying themselves with calls for greater cooperation,” write Jean Quatremer and Camille Lamotte.
Economic and Financial daily Les Echos also shows little enthusiasm about the summit’s achievements, writing that the 25-nation bloc has only shown artificial unity. “The Brussels summit has chosen reason instead of conflict,” it writes, saying EU leaders have agreed on an “embryonic European energy policy” that is “masking [the EU’s] divergences on ongoing mergers in the sector.”
The Swiss paper Neue Zürcher Zeitung calls it a summit of missed opportunities, and writes on the goal of annually creating 2 million new jobs before 2010: "Without doubt, it is easier to make non-binding promises at EU level than to start reforms at national level that are painful, but indispensable to secure the future. But for the 19 million jobless in the EU nothing is gained. It remains the case in the EU member states – like in all market economies - that it is the companies, not the politicians, which create employment”.
German newspaper Die Welt writes: "With only ambitious goals for energy savings and more seed money for alternative energy sources, it is not possible to guarantee that the EU will have enough energy in the event of natural catastrophe or political crisis in the energy supplying countries."
The annual Lisbon exercise of checking progress on the road towards the EU becoming the world's most competitive knowledge-based economy took place at the EU summit on 23-24 March.
This was the first examination of the plan since the EU decided to re-focus the Lisbon-agenda in 2005. But the European Council largely avoided using harsh words on the varying quality of the different national reform programmes (NRPs).
This year, the Spring summit had energy issues on the top of its agenda as a new element, along with its traditional economic and social agenda. Discussions were based on Commission suggestions presented in a Green Paper on 8 March.
The ongoing disputes between a number of EU member states on cross-border mergers and energy protectionism issues were largely avoided.
- Council:European Council conclusions 23.24 March 2006