Monthly Archives: October 2013

Les Journées de Bruxelles en images

Les Journées de Bruxelles en images

“L’Europe ne se divise pas. Elle n’a jamais été unifiée”, a notamment déclaré Hubert Védrine (à gauche) à ses débatteurs, parmi lesquels Peter Galbraith (au centre), premier ambassadeur des Etats-Unis en Croatie. (Cyril Bonnet/Le Nouvel Observateur)


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Zapatero reappears in Brussels

The former Prime Minister will participate in the EU capital in a debate on the future of Europe

Politics | 05/10/2013 – 18:08 PM | Last update: 05/10/2013 – 18:44 pm

Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero EFE



What did we do in Europe? It is the question that is expected to José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero meets next Friday in Brussels. The former Prime Minister will participate in a discussion of the conference “Reinventing Europe” organized by the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur and will pass-or back for the first time by the EU capital, in the case of Zapatero many of the protagonists of the last decades of European and the crisis that has threatened to blow up the project. Zapatero participate in a discussion with former Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, who just agreed a few weeks as head of government, and former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, one of the most ardent supporters of the creation of the United States Europe.

From 10 to 12 October in the halls of Bozar, also known as the Palace of Fine Arts of Belgium, will cross political figures as Felipe González (intervenes on Thursday), former French President Valery Giscard D’Estaing and Jacques Delors, who will talk about what went wrong in Europe, economists such as Paul de Grauwe and Thomas Piketty to discuss if liberalism and financial deregulation have killed the project or U.S. diplomats as Peter Galbraith, the Finnish Nobel Peace Prize Martti Ahtisaari and former minister Frenchman Hubert Vedrine to discuss under the suggestive title of “European diplomacy: A scheduled disaster?”

In total, 30 debates, with 100 interventions over three days. In the conference call, the weekly remembers something somewhat redundant, both Monti and Verhofstadt Zapatero as “a government headed moments during the last crisis experienced by the EU”, which the public will have very present Brussels Friday. It will be the first time that Zapatero intervene in Brussels since leaving the Moncloa. “We hope very vivid discussions on the state of emergency that crosses the European continent,” says Laurent Joffrin, director of Le Nouvel Observateur .

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EurActiv: EU countries need grand coalitions in times of crisis

Monti: EU countries need grand coalitions in times of crisis
Published: 14 October 2013

The best way to pass the difficult reforms that many EU countries need is to install a grand coalition such as the one that helped save Italy from economic disaster, former Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said at a public event on Friday (11 October, 2013).


On 21 December 2012 Mario Monti resigned as prime minister due to the withdrawal of coalition endorsement from the center-right People of Freedom party.

Left-wing Italian politicians are divided over Monti’s legacy. Critics say anti-European feelings are a direct consequence of Monti’s austerity reforms. Under Monti, Italy accepted several austerity packages, including hikes on VAT and economic restructuring and a property tax.

Monti has defended his actions, saying Italy was forced into austerity measures due to its bad public finances and increasingly irreparable debt problems.

Monti said the biggest problem facing European democracy was what he called “short-termism”, the fact that politicians were focused on their performance at the next election rather than on finding solutions to their country’s or society’s problems.

Monti was speaking at a conference organised by French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur and other media at the Brussels Centre for Fine Arts, Bozar.

Monti argued that while the EU as a whole had a relatively good level of democracy, rampant inequality in income distribution and other factors made the picture less positive when broken down on the national level. The Union did not try enough to compensate for the weaknesses of the individual member states, he added.

“We have to invent a system which continues to be democratic, depending on elections, but where, maybe, those who govern, care a little bit more about the politics of their government than being re-elected,” Monti said.

‘Treaty change is psycho-drama’

The former Italian prime minister, who served as a European commissioner from 1995 to 2004 and who belongs to various European think tanks, such as the federalist Spinelli group, said he did not advocate a change of treaty or the institutions, which was “always a psycho-drama”. Instead, he called for difficult reforms to be implemented at the national level.

“Simply we need politicians to assume more responsibility. We are never going to be able [to tackle] the youth unemployment problem for example, which is dramatic, if we don’t change our labour market laws, so as to grant a bit less protection to the insiders, to those employed, and more ability to enter for outsiders, who normally are the youth,” he said.

Monti said difficult reforms could not pass because of opposition from the trade unions. He did not name France, where the powerful trade unions strongly oppose giving up on any social rights, but gave as an example his own country and his experience as prime minister.  Monti, who keeps a distance from politics, despite having once attended a summit of the centre-right European people’s Party (EPP), formed a technocratic government in November 2011 with the support of the Italian centre-left.

“This is why I’m convinced that we need at the national level, in many of our countries, some sort of grand coalition. I would have never been able in Italy to have a very thorough pension reform, the introduction of property taxes and the big steps against tax evasion if I didn’t have at the same time the support of the right and of the left. The left did not like the pension reform, but it’s not the only political force we penalised in terms of political consensus, because the right didn’t like the other things,” he said.

Monti resigned in December 2012, having passed several reforms and the 2012 budget, saying that he would remain in office only if a new election was held. The election took place in February 2013, but Monti’s centrist coalition was only able to come fourth.

But Monti appeared unperturbed, saying that the current government of centre-left Prime Minister Enrico Letta had his group’s full support.

The echoes of Monti’s plea for grand coalitions may be felt in Germany, where Angela Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union (along with its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union) may enter into a coalition with the centre-left Social Democratic Party.

France has no tradition of grand coalition governments, but the centre-left and centre-right have often joined forces to prevent candidates from the far-right Front National being elected to parliament or at local level.

US ‘similar problems’

Monti also argued that in spite of the prevailing stereotypes that the European Union was lagging behind from the United States in terms of federal institutions, the EU system of economic governance was better than American one.

“We often speak of the USA as a model for the EU, but when we speak of governance of the economy, I think we have better institutions than they have. The presidential power of the man sitting in the White House is not much stronger than the power we have here, [despite] the complexity of 28 member states,” he stressed.

“Is the [US president] able to put under control the federal finances, or is he able to exercise control in foreign trade policies? No, he has a Congress with two parties, the number is much smaller than 28 member states, but the problems are similar,” Monti said.


Speaking at the same conference, Peter Galbraith, Vermont state senator and a diplomat active in the Western Balkans in the 1990s, said that the European Union had often over-jumped its ambitions, by starting its most important projects before the mechanisms needed to enforce them.

“You have created the euro without a fiscal and economic union, you have established Schengen without having a common immigration policy and you have put in place an External Action Service without having achieved a unity of purpose,” Galbraith said.

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