sábado, 17 de setembro de 2016
Europe’s ‘play it safe’ summit
Europe’s ‘play it safe’ summit
Not everyone stuck to the EU’s solidarity script in Bratislava.
David M. Herszenhorn
9/16/16, 10:13 PM CET
BRATISLAVA — With 27 of 28 European leaders in Bratislava Friday for a confidence-building retreat — aimed at showing the world they were unified in tackling the Continent’s myriad crises despite Britain’s vote to leave the Union — senior EU officials tried leaving nothing to chance.
When word came that a luxury river-liner ferrying the leaders on a cruise along the Danube might run aground if it docked for a planned museum visit, officials quickly scrapped the stop. Instead, they announced, more time would be devoted to an afternoon work session.
In the end, despite the most careful planning, they could not prevent continuing discord from casting a pall over their sunny day in the Slovak capital.
Though the leaders clinched an agreement Friday on a tightly focused agenda for the coming months, including stepped-up cooperation on military affairs and and stiffer efforts to stop illegal migrants from entering Europe, the Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, and the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, quickly criticized the results of Friday’s meeting as insufficient.
Renzi pointedly declined to join the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the French president, François Hollande, at a news conference following the summit, saying he was unhappy with the conclusions reached on dealing with migrants and Europe’s slumping economy — two issues that have riven the EU for months.
‘Self-destructive and naive’
“This meeting has seen some steps forward, bur it’s still far away from the idea of Europe that we have in mind,” Renzi said. Italy and other Southern nations, including Greece, have expressed deep unhappiness with the fiscal austerity policies supported by Germany and some Northern countries.
“While we all agree the European Union is not perfect, we also agree that it is what we have best” — EU Council President Donald Tusk
It was difficult to gauge the significance of Renzi’s assessment, and that of Orbán, who called the EU’s migration policy “self-destructive and naive,” given that they joined the other leaders in backing the limited agenda for the coming months.
Still, their negative comments contrasted sharply with the self-congratulatory remarks of Merkel and Hollande, as well as European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
“Our assessment is sober but not defeatist,” Tusk said at an evening news conference where he declared the meeting a success. “While we all agree the European Union is not perfect, we also agree that it is what we have best,” he said. “That is why we are determined to correct the past mistakes and move on with common solutions as the EU 27.”
Tusk and Merkel, in particular, had engaged in aggressive preparations ahead of the Bratislava gathering, separately meeting in person or speaking by phone with each of the leaders, in a bid to quell disagreements — at least for a day.
“The spirit of Bratislava was very much a spirit of cooperation,” Merkel said at her news conference with Hollande, adding that leaders had not avoided tough subjects. “Everything was discussed,” she said. “We didn’t just talk about European history and values.”
Friday’s Bratislava retreat was purposely held far from the glass and concrete government buildings in Brussels that have become a symbol — unfairly perhaps — of bureaucracy and ineffective governance amid a cascade of crises.
Still, the accord reached even on just a modest agenda for the next few months was hailed by some analysts as an important step given the competing and often contradictory political imperatives facing European leaders, especially those who will be campaigning for re-election in coming months.
“Most leaders and governments are in a survival mode and weak, therefore there’s an overwhelming focus on domestic agendas across the EU,” said Milan Nič, head of the Europe program at GLOBSEC Policy Institute, a think tank in Bratislava focused on foreign policy and security issues.
“At the same time, you have mounting divisions on multiple levels and crises that push various groups of countries in one way or another,” Nič said. “So it is important there is now a projection of agreement and consensus on three or four areas.”
Holding the summit in Bratislava also sent an important message, Nič said. “It means Europeans getting together in eastern Europe in a new member state capital, in the Visegrad capital and projecting unity in the interest of all us.” (Visegrad refers to the regional grouping of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.)
“Prosperity, stability and security in Europe otherwise cannot be guaranteed. It is only through the European Union that that is possible” — Slovak President Robert Fico
Technically, because of the absence of Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, the Bratislava event was an “informal” summit and leaders were unable to take any official, binding action.
Nonetheless, they agreed on a Bratislava declaration and “roadmap” for carrying out a number of initiatives including a doubling of the size and duration of a strategic investment plan put forward by Juncker.
With clear goals for completing the initiatives between March and June 2017, the plan also called for enhanced security cooperation, including a major push to secure Bulgaria’s border with Turkey involving 200 extra border guards and 50 vehicles.
Other initiatives included an effort to provide free wifi service in major city-centers by 2020 and to deploy 5G network access across the EU by 2025, and an effort to increase voluntarism by expanding the European Solidarity Corps.
The Slovak prime minister, Robert Fico, said the Bratislava summit marked an important display of resolve by EU leaders.
“We can’t go into reverse, we must continue to go forward,” Fico said at a closing press conference. “Prosperity, stability and security in Europe otherwise cannot be guaranteed. It is only through the European Union that that is possible.”
“It is true in the European Union there are member states and they often have differing views, different ideas,” Fico said. “We feel that for the future, we need to be more concrete in what we want to do and also in explaining what we want to do.”