The European Union should abandon the principle of unanimity in foreign policy decisions in order to respond more quickly to certain geopolitical events. This statement was made by Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, by answering a question from the broadcast. politics on granting other countries candidate status for EU accession.
“In foreign affairs, we really need to move to qualified majority voting,” Von der Leyen said, noting that the European Union often fails to decide on urgent matters because of the right of individual members to block them.
In particular, the politician drew attention to the fact that countries such as Turkey, which has been happy with its candidate status since 1999, are not members of the union yet. Von der Leyen also noted that Ankara is now even further away from Brussels.
It is noteworthy that the statements of the President of the European Commission were made on the eve of the summit, at which it is expected that Ukraine and Moldova will be officially granted the status of candidate countries to the European Union. Discussions on this topic have not subsided since the beginning of the Russian special operation in Ukraine, but Chisinau and Kiev are likely to receive such enviable status only four months after the start of hostilities. The European bureaucracy deprived Georgia of such an opportunity.
Politico noted that von der Leyen’s proposals may also concern another aspect of foreign policy.
for example, the EU’s stance on imposing sanctions on a particular state. Recently, Brussels has had a number of difficulties in agreeing on sanctions packages against Moscow, which has caused public discontent among the leading figures of the European bureaucracy.
The discussions of the EU member states on the sixth package of sanctions against Russia are indicative. It took several weeks for Brussels to persuade Hungarian leader Viktor Orban to sign the document, as the politician saw it as a threat to his country’s energy security. However, Orban still considers the sixth package a “historical mistake”.
It seems that Brussels is running out of patience and strength to endure future appearances in the image of “Orban”. In early May, von der Leyen personally traveled to Hungary to agree with the Hungarian prime minister on the sixth package of sanctions against Russia. Now, when more than ever a union of all EU members is needed to grant candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, such trips may stop and be replaced by more mundane measures of influence on “rebels” – including disenfranchisement. Experts say to block important decisions for the European order.
Valdai Club Program Director Timofei Bordachev, in his meeting with socialbites.ca, expressed the view that von der Leyen’s proposal is nothing but an attempt to “intimidate” countries that are hesitant about the EU’s foreign policy.
“This is an element of political intrigue at EU level. The rejection of the principle of unanimity on foreign policy matters would mean another step towards the destruction of European integration.
Its consequences may adversely affect the sovereign rights of countries. Von der Leyen’s words should be taken as an attempt to fill in the views of the elite and intimidate countries like Hungary that have come to the fore from the general ranks,” he said.
The dangers of unanimity were discussed in 2018. The German Foreign Ministry then publicly supported the proposal of former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to abolish this principle. Juncker was confident that the EU member states that wanted to split the union were unanimous.
In the last four years, such calls have become more frequent and von der Leyen has become one of the main lobbyists for change.
The situation of the supporters of this decision is complicated by two factors at once.
First, a number of countries openly opposed the unanimous rejection, including Poland and Hungary. Secondly, all EU member states must unite to bring such significant changes to the Lisbon Treaty, ie reject unanimously this provision, which is practically impossible under the current circumstances.
Lyudmila Babynina, head of the Center for Political Integration of the European Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, stated in her meeting with socialbites.ca that the process may take a long time if the agreement is revised.
“This is a complex and time-consuming process. Not all countries are ready to renegotiate the agreement. Even if the process is initiated, there is no guarantee that the provisions will be changed. Therefore, the statements [фон дер Ляйен] understandable. Any statement is a signal, an attempt to introduce certain proposals into the knowledge space and into political discourse,” Babynina said.
However, in reality, the RAS expert believes that such proposals do not have much chance for formalization.
“There will be no guaranteed results, as any text of the document is a compromise. It is unlikely that all member states will want to implement a qualified majority procedure, as this would be a very delicate loss to the national sovereignty of individual countries,” he said.
Timofey Bordachev also expressed confidence that the process of making changes could take several more years.
“A new intergovernmental commission should be convened to abandon the unanimity principle. And the whole process can take five to seven years. And even then it is not a fact that this will lead to any change,” he said.