El espectáculo circense europeo

El presente artículo fue publicado originalmente el 23 de enero de 2015 en la revista LA GRIETA

Con todos ustedes, en la pista central ¡las instituciones malabaristas de la UE! No, no nos hemos equivocado de columna, vamos a hablar de Europa y no de Circo, o tal vez sí. Si me permiten el símil con las instituciones europeas y, en particular, sus tres cabezas más visibles (Juncker- Presidente de la Comisión, Tusk- Presidente del Consejo y Moguerini – Alta representante de la UE)  conforman una peculiar agrupación cuya gestión puede asemejarse a la de un trío de malabaristas circenses acompañados de un maestro de ceremonias, el Parlamento Europeo (y su Presidente Martin Schultz).

4985920361_7e5ecd29a0_z  Imagine el lector un malabarista, con sus malabares ardiendo ¿Cuántos pueden manejar al mismo tiempo y ¿Cómo? 5…¿Tal vez 10? Ahora bien, cuando se le une otro malabarista, el número de los que pueden mantener en el aire aumentará a..¿15, 20? ¿Y si son 3 los malabaristas?[1]

Pues aún más. Volvamos ahora al ámbito europeo y pongámonos en 2 escenarios diametralmente opuestos: los tres malabaristas se compenetran a la perfección y realizan un número espectacular con docenas de malabares en el aire o se pelean y todo acaba por los suelos. Si empezamos por la parte de antecedentes, la experiencia previa del trío Barroso-Van Ron Puyu-Ashton no puede calificarse de un gran ejemplo. El perfil bajo adoptado por ellos y a su vez, buscado por los Estados miembros (sin olvidar el protagonismo de la Canciller alemana que ayudó a eclipsarlos), no puede decirse que diera pie a grandes desavenencias o luchas de poder pero tampoco a realizar grandes hazañas. Dicho de forma más mundana: dejaron gran parte de las gradas del circo por barrer.

Tengamos también en cuenta las reglas de juego: Tratado de Lisboa para los amigos o Tratado de la Unión Europea y Tratado de Funcionamiento de la Unión Europea para el resto. En cualquier caso, con mucha trampa, en ellos se deja constancia de las capacidades de cada uno, pero sin entrar en una definición clara. Antes de seguir me van a disculpar, si cito aquí los tratados, al menos de palabra, pueden confiar en mí o leer el pie de página para ver los artículos referidos, pues tengo el firme (des)propósito de usar lo menos posible el vocabulario técnico de la UE, salvo cuando quiera que se echen la siesta.

 

Pues bien, agárrense que vamos a “liarla parda”. Según nuestro amigo el Tratado de Lisboa, en políticas tan notorias como la Exterior, encontramos que “el Presidente del Consejo Europeo asumirá la representación exterior, sin perjuicio de la Alta Representante” , quien está “al frente de la política exterior y de seguridad común de la Unión”[2] y ”…presidirá el Consejo de Asuntos Exteriores” y “será uno de los Vicepresidentes de la Comisión”…(más que Alto o Alta, habría que calificarla de bipolar con 2 cargos en 2 instituciones) ..y la Comisión “con excepción de la política exterior y de seguridad común… asumirá la representación exterior de la Unión”. Pero hay más…como guinda al pastel “La Unión dirigirá la política exterior y de seguridad común…”[3]  Conclusión: ¿¿Qué??¿¿Quién??¿¿Cómo??  Cualquiera que lo lea con un mínimo espíritu crítico puede pensar que lo dicho es la perfecta excusa para no hacer nada, si es que se ha enterado de algo, o finamente, comenzar un eterno debate sobre quién hace qué y tirarse los malabares a la cabeza.

 

Ahora bien ¿Y sí lo miramos desde el otro lado? Pongámonos ahora en la 6904304987_894a6a7135_otesitura que los tres se entienden a la perfección y sus aspiraciones políticas (y por qué no, egos) no chocan, sino se complementan. La falta de definiciones milimétricas les dota de la agilidad necesaria para alcanzar un acuerdo entre ellos, si ellos quieren. Tusk y Moguerini en los vértices más cercanos al público, Juncker un poco más atrás (a diferencia del anterior presidente Barroso, no busca ocupar la primera línea del photo call, no lo dice un servidor, lo dice él). Los perfiles de nuestro tres artistas circenses se complementan bastante bien, conjugan experiencia con energía y trasfondos políticos muy distintos que les permiten abarcar distintos escenarios. Por ejemplo Tusk debe entenderse con el oso del circo (Rusia), Moguerini lidiar con el cañón explosivo (Oriente Medio) y Juncker controlar la taquilla (ronda negociadora de la OMC o presupuestos de la UE).

Y todo esto, mientras (Super) Mario Dragui, doma a las fieras, es decir, calma los mercados desde el BCE y Martin Schultz, presidente del Parlamento Europeo, en su calidad de maestro de ceremonias promociona a nuestros malabaristas o les pone alguna zancadilla, pues no olvidemos que si hay un €  del presupuesto de la Unión implicado, el Parlamento habrá de pronunciarse y también éste quiere su ración de atención bajo los focos, pues a fin de cuentas, es el representante directo del público (los ciudadanos) en la pista.

En conclusión; ¡PASEN Y VEAN! Los próximos 5 años pueden dar pie a un espectáculo memorable, donde entre trapecistas, malabares, fieras y payasos, veamos surgir una Unión Europea digna del espectáculo más grande del mundo. Mientras tanto, seguiremos describiéndoles la función desde estas líneas.

Recuerden que la UE puede ser fácil y divertida,

[1] Existe un teorema en juegos malabares, planteado por Claude Shannon, donde se plantea que el número de malabares que pueden manejarse es proporcial al número de manos.  https://www2.bc.edu/~lewbel/jugweb/sciamjug.pdf

[2] Ver T.U.E art 13 y ss donde se describen las competencias de cada Institución

[3] Art 25 del TUE

JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER for Dummies

Published Tuesday 26 August 2014 on the New Federalist. 

Dear Reader, we know you’ve got loads of questions racing through your mind these summer days: what swimming pool should I pick? Which pub should I go to? A glass of wine or a nice, refreshing beer? And, of course, who’s the new President of the European Commission? This is why you’re here, after all, and this is why we at JEF and The New Federalist have written this “Juncker for Dummies” guide for you. We hope you find it refreshing, learn a thing or two and get all geared up to prevail in any summer debate with your friends. So let’s get to the bottom of the… er, matter, look at things from your point of view, ask the same questions trotting around in your head and find all the answers you need.

1.- So, who’s this bloke anyway? Where does he come from?

Jean-Claude Juncker, or as his friends call him, Johnny, was born in 1954 in the Great Duchy of Luxembourg, the second smallest EU Member State (no sneering remarks, please), where he lived and grew happily as a good pro-European. Juncker also felt the ripples of the war in his life, as his father had been forcibly drafted to fight in the German army during World War II.

 

2.- Okay, but what did he study?

He’s got Erasmus experience. Well, sort of, since he studied in three different countries during his youth. He received primary tuition in Belvaux (Luxembourg) and secondary education in Clairefontaine, Belgium, before returning to Luxembourg to finish high school. In 1975 he started Law (one of the most difficult degrees in Europe) at the University of Strasbourg in France. He completed his studies in 1979 right on schedule, proving he was a brainy kid who, furthermore, spoke no fewer than five different languages.

3.- So he’s no dunce, got it. But what has he done since 1979?

Yep, that was a long time ago, but even back then Mr Juncker (we’re not buddies yet) developed a taste for politics. Instead of joining a law firm, he put his legal expertise at the service of the Christian Social People’s Party (CSV/PSC) and, at the young age of 28, he was appointed Secretary of State for Work and Social Security in 1982. As we see, he already had the makings of a hard-working politician, so two years later he became Minister of Labour. In 1989 he took up the Finance portfolio (it’ll come up again later), and he liked it so much he kept it until 2009. In January 1995, he became Prime Minister of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, a post he held until December 2013 —almost 19 years during which he won three consecutive general elections and headed four coalitions (with either liberals or socialists, as the situation required), so he can’t have been that bad.

Generally speaking, his premiership was economically liberal-conservative and socially somewhat more progressive (we’ll let you borrow that sentence for your debates). He oversaw several years of remarkable economic prosperity (with Luxembourg topping EU per capita income rankings) before the onset of the Great Recession, from which Luxembourg emerged in better shape than other Eurozone countries.

4.- Can he do no wrong? Is he a saint or something?

Of course, our subject of interest has also had his fair share of scandals, chief among them the one which brought down his premiership, when it was escena 9 juncker muecarevealed that the Luxembourgish secret service (we know, right?) had been illegally wiretapping leading figures in the country. On paper, the service reported to Juncker, but it had gone rogue to such an extent that Juncker himself ended up being wiretapped. This didn’t stop him from running for re-election, and indeed he got more votes than anyone else. Nevertheless, he failed to entice the socialists and liberals, who struck a deal behind his back.

On another note, he also courted controversy when he defended banking secrecy and the Grand Duchy’s tax and economic privileges as a tax haven, with the financial sector representing no less than a fourth of its economy.

5.- What has he done in Europe? (Sorry, sorry, sorry for all the Euro-speak in this section. Questions? Doubts? Click here.)

We already saw how Juncker is quite the hard-working man, but when it comes to Europe, he kicks it up a notch and works his socks off in defence of his profound European convictions. His double role as Prime Minister and Minister for Finance made him an expert in all the “fun” going on in Brussels (aka the European Council and the meetings of the Council of Ministers for the Economy). In his 25 years as minister and Prime Minister, he saw: 4 fundamental treaties, 1 (failed) constitution, several economic crises, a tech bubble, an economic megacrisis, several world crises and a myriad European ones, the accession of 16 new Member States, the birth of the common currency… and he had a hand in all of it.

The economy

He earned much praise for his work in ECOFIN (a gathering of EU economy ministers) and was one of the architects of both the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU for buddies, a precursor to the euro) and the Growth and Stability Pact. He also led the Eurogroup, a gathering of euro state Finance ministers, for eight years. In December 1996, in between pints of Guinness at a European Council in Dublin, he was a key mediator ahead of the implementation over the next few years of the Growth and Stability Pact (GSP), which had been designed by German Minister of Finance Theo Waigel and was essentially a list of dos and don’ts for states wishing to join the euro. The other states and the European Commission were supposed to oversee compliance with these requirements, but a few years down the road it had become more a case of the blind overseeing the blind.

With all these successes under his belt, it’s no wonder he was chosen to lead the Eurogroup for eight years straight and gaining the nickname “Mr Euro” in the process.

5 (bis) Wait a sec — we’ve got a fly-on-the wall exclusive (mis-)representing the meeting at which Juncker was chosen head of the Eurogroup:

➢ ECOFIN sitting chairman: Come on guys, Ministers for the Economy, it’s time to pick who’ll be coordinating that currency thingy, the ECU, I mean, the euro.

➢ German minister: No problem, I’ll do it.

➢ The rest: What? You’ve got to be kidding. You already boss us around enough. We ain’t giving you any more power.

➢ French minister: Oh là là, no quarrelling, no quarrelling! Let me handle this.

➢ The rest: What? Yeah, right, and then you’ll get all sulky whenever anyone brings up la grandeur.

➢ Belgian minister: Well, how about me, I mean us? We’re half French and half German, after all.

➢ The rest: No way, Jose. It takes you ages to cobble a government together and we don’t even know how long you’ll stay in office, so that’s a non-starter.

➢ Chairman: John… (Mr Juncker) Stop gazing at the ceiling, will you?

➢ Juncker: Who, me? (whistling and looking the other way)

➢ Chairman: Well, you’re right in the middle, speak German and French, and did an outstanding job with that euro thingy.

➢ Juncker: Sure, but…

➢ The rest: You ain’t wriggling out of this one. You should’ve stopped when we still had francs, marks and pesetas… It’s your job now. And don’t worry. It’s just for two years. It’ll be over before you know it.

➢ Juncker: Okey-dokey, if you put it that way…

Two years later…

➢ Everyone: John!

➢ Juncker: What?

➢ Everyone: Well… It’s two years later, wouldn’t you like another term? You’ve done a great job so far…

➢ Juncker: Are you sure?

➢ Everyone: YESSSS!

➢ Juncker: Okay, then, two more years.

Two years later…

➢ Someone: I’m getting a bit fed up with having to pick a Eurogroup chairman every two years. How about extending his term to four years or more?

➢ Everyone: Great idea!

➢ Someone: Any candidates?

➢ Everyone: Joooooohn! Come on, old chap, we’ll call you “Mr Euro” from now on and you’ll get to keep the post for as long as you want, okay?

➢ Juncker: Oh, all right, just stop pestering me.

➢ Everyone: [singing] For he’s a jolly nice fellow, he’s a jolly nice fellow!

In January 2013 he finally bequeathed his post to Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem (it is said that the moist air of the Brussels European district was filled with the sad wailing of guitars and a voice singing “when a friend goes away, a bit of your soul goes with him…”).

Politics

As a member of the Council of Finance Ministers (ECOFIN), our hero first rose to prominence in the wide-ranging political process leading to the Treaty on European Union (TEU), which was approved by the European Council in Maastricht in December 1991, was signed in February 1992 and came into force on November 1, 1993.

He later followed up on it with his work on the Treaty of Amsterdam (the one which followed the Treaty of Maastricht) and, more or less around the same time, the Luxembourg Process (just in case you were wondering whose idea it was), an initiative to complement the existing common policies and EMU with a social integration scheme focusing on job creation.

6.- Okay, okay… But what about the crisis? Is he a good guy or a bad guy? I bet he’s one of those who love to squeeze us until the pips squeak.

He played the “good cop” in all this austerity drama. It’s absolutely true that, as the chairman of the Eurogroup, he was one of the key players in designing the bailout programmes and financial funds used to stabilise the euro. He did this mainly through the so-called Frankfurt Group, an informal gathering of economic officials and, according to sceptics, the real power behind the throne in the EU.

As part of this group, he kept his distance from the strictest, most dogmatic views, mingled with those who’d rather combine austerity and stimulus for growth, and sounded the alarm on the widening gap between the northern core and the southern bailed-out economies.

escena 8This is why in December 2010 he teamed up with Italian Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti to launch a proposal for a European Debt Agency authorised to issue bonds (the famous Eurobonds) on behalf of the then 27 Member States. The Agency was supposed to take over from the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF, the mechanism set up to bail out embattled Member States), which depended on contributions (and good will) from governments.

Merkel and her Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, closed ranks with Sarkozy to reject Eurobonds, arguing that “collectivising” national debt would dilute the responsibility of states with financial problems and slow down implementation of crucial austerity and consolidation measures. In other words, “dream on and fasten your seatbelt”.

Mr Juncker ended up calling the German chancellor’s approach “anti-European” and “simplistic”, which translated from Brussels lingo to street-speak means he hadn’t liked it a little bit and had serious doubts about her ancestors’ honour.

7.- Neat. He seems pro-European and it looks like he has what it takes to be President, but… Who picked him?

He was chosen by the electorate: BY YOU! If you didn’t know, which is likely, but not your fault, all the big European parties fielded candidates in the last election to the European Parliament, with Mr Juncker spearheading the People’s Party campaign. Nevertheless, perhaps you didn’t vote for a constituent party of the European People’s Party, so how could it be? By participating in elections, which is a great start, because whether your candidate or another one is elected, democracy is the winner, and if you didn’t vote… we invite you to read some of the articles in which we gave several reasons to do so and underlined the importance of voting (editor’s note: because we only mentioned it, like, 50 times).

8.- What does he want to do now he’s President of the Commission?

To say Juncker doesn’t shy away from work would be a massive understatement. Right after being elected, our new President gave a speech outlining the goals of his presidency, showing off his metaphorical skills and admitting mistakes had been made, comparing the measures implemented in Europe during the crisis to “repairing a burning plane whilst flying”, or in layman’s terms, “we didn’t end up with our heads smashed in, in but it was a close shave, and we could’ve done some things better.” He went a step further and stressed that the success of future European policies hinges on regaining the citizens’ trust and rising to the challenges faced by Europe, its society and its economy.

His plan consists of rebuilding the EU around an “Agenda for work, growth, justice and democratic change”, with a key mantra for Europe: “bigger and more ambitious on big things and smaller and more modest on small things”. He’s translated this into 10 specific policies, chief among them the creation of jobs, growth and investment, driven by an initiative to muster €300 bn in public- and private-sector investment over the next three years.

This investment would focus on infrastructure (telecommunication networks, energy, transportation and industrial centres), education, research and development, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

escena 6 imagesOther goals will be: • Raising the EU’s international profile (we’re not always taken seriously) • A larger, better internal market with a stronger industrial component • A free trade agreement with the US (the stuff of nightmares for some) which is fair and balanced (so they can have sweet dreams) • A better, deeper economic and monetary union. It’s not about being richer, which isn’t bad or exclusive either, but about the social aspect. It’s about fulfilling the (secret) dream of many to get rid of the troika and replace it with a more democratic, legitimate system. • Taking a breather from enlargement. In other words, no new Member States in the next five years (shoehorn this into the Catalan debate for lots of fun and games) • A Union with a strong democratic flavour, that is, with intensified dialogue among the European institutions. Conversation brings people together, you know. He also wants to make things more transparent, including taming the lobbies, which remain as mysterious as they’re controversial. • Injecting a dose of common sense into European migration policies, which at present are neither common nor make much sense.

9.- He’s got his work cut out for him, can he pull it off?

escena 14- cierreCrystal balls and tea leaves won’t help us here, so let’s look at this through our pro-European prism. He faces a Herculean task demanding a strong commitment and an iron will. Juncker’s already proved he has these qualities, in addition to that penchant for European federalism we’ve come to know and love, not to mention his white hair and glasses which remind us of another Commission President who shook the Union to the core (in a good way), a certain Jacques Delors.

That doesn’t mean we at UEF-JEF won’t be keeping an eye on him and, if he needs ideas to inspire him (or which he can shamelessly steal), the European Citizens’ Initiative NEW DEAL FOR EUROPE we’ve been promoting for months is the perfect place for him to find policies, especially in the social sphere, one in which the EU needs to make lots of progress after the last term…

So the answer is: yes, we can, but it certainly won’t be a path strewn with roses and we, the average Joes and Janes, will have to keep a watchful eye on him, so if our brand-new President of the Commission veers off course, we can put him back on the pro-European track.

P.S Special Thanks to Alistair Spearing for his superb work of translation.

Like this article? Want a fun introduction to any other aspect of the EU? Send your questions to yasemoseuropeos@gmail.com or follow us on twitter @yasemoseuropeos. We promise to answer (sooner or latter).

Links (reference works)

1.-CIBOD -comprehensive biography –in Spanish)

2.-Official .

JUNCKER para principiantes/for dummies – I entrega

Esta artículo fue publica en El Nuevo Federalista el 8 de Agosto de 2014

 

Estimado lector,

escena 14- cierre

Soy consciente que en las fechas que nos encontramos usted se plantea muchas cosas, por  ejemplo:  a qué piscina ir, qué tapa tomar, si tinto de verano o cerveza y, en última posición, su  curiosidad por conocer al nuevo electo presidente de la Comisión. Por eso visita esta página y por  eso mismo, para ponerselo fácil, desde JEF-UEF y su publicación, el Nuevo Federalista-sección “Ya semos europeos..¡UE!”, hemos  decidido ofrecerle nuestra guía de “Juncker para principiantes”, con cuya lectura confiamos salga  refrescado, informado y en forma para afrontar victorioso cualquier tertulia de verano con los  amigos. Bueno, vamos al relleno de la aceituna, ejem..al tema, así que nos van a permitir ponernos en su lugar y plantearnos las mismas dudas que a usted le asaltan y a las que daremos    respuesta :

1.-Bueno este señor ¿quién es? ¿de dónde viene?

 JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER, “juan“ o “juanito“ para los íntimos, nació en 1954, en el Gran Ducado de Luxemburgo; el segundo estado miembro más pequeño del UE (ejem…sobran comentarios) donde vivió y se crió felizmente. Como buen europeísta, su vida también quedó marcada por la guerra, en este caso a través de su padre, quien fue reclutado forzosamente para luchar en el ejército alemán durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial.

 2.-Sí, pero ¿ tiene estudios?

A su manera tuvo su Erasmus: durante su juventud estudió en 3 países, ya que cursó la educación primaria en Belvaux (Luxemburgo), la secundaria en la población belga de Clairefontaine, para completar el bachillerato en la Ciudad de Luxemburgo. Finalmente, en 1975 se matriculó en la Facultad de Derecho (en Europa una de las carreras más difíciles) de la Universidad francesa de Estrasburgo, licenciándose en 1979, es decir, a curso por año, demostrando que el chaval estudiaba y de paso nos habla 5 idiomas.

 3.- Vale, tonto no parece que sea pero ¿qué ha hecho desde el 79?

Efectivamente la fecha es lejana y ya desde entonces al Sr. Juncker (que no tenemos tanta confianza) le gustó lo de la política, en lugar de ponerse a ejercer en un bufete puso sus conocimientos jurídicos al servicio del Partido Popular Social Cristiano (CSV/PSC), y a la tierna edad de 28, allá por el 82, fue nombrado secretario de Estado de Trabajo y de la Seguridad Social. El chaval apuntaba maneras de político trabajador, tal es así que 2 años después le nombraron ministro de trabajo y en 1989 le sumó la cartera de Finanzas (algo que más adelante será clave, como veremos) con la que seguiría hasta 2009 (se ve que le gustó la cartera)  y desde enero de 1995 y hasta diciembre 2013, casi 19 años, fue Primer ministro del Gran Ducado de Luxemburgo. En este período ganó tres elecciones generales consecutivas y encabezó cuatro gabinetes de coalición (con liberales o con socialistas, según saliese) así que algo bueno tenía que ser.

Resumidamente, su gestión fue liberal conservadora en lo económico y más progresista en la protección social  (¡toma frase de tertulia!) y su mandato coincidió con varios años de envidiable prosperidad económica (Luxemburgo tenía la mayor renta per cápita de la UE)  previamente a la llegada de la Gran Recesión que en Luxemburgo fue menos intensa que en otros países de la eurozona (sigue teniendo la mayor renta).

 

4.- Bueno, algo mal habrá hecho ¿no? ¿O es un santo?

Efectivamente también nuestro protagonista se vio salpicado por los escándalos, en particular, el que acabó con su posición de Primer ministro, cuando salió a la luz pública el escándalo de las escuchas a las primeras autoridades del país por parte del servicio secreto luxemburgués (sí, es así, nos sorprendió tanto como a usted  ¡Luxemburgo tiene servicio secreto!). Un servicio, en teoría, bajo el control del propio Juncker,  pero como se comprobó, andaban un poco descontrolados, hasta el punto que el propio Juncker  acabó espiado. A pesar de esto, volvió a presentarse a las elecciones y fue el más votado pero no consiguió asociarse ni con los socialistas ni con los liberales, quienes se entendieron por su cuenta.

En otro ámbito, también resultó algo controvertida su defensa del secreto bancario y las ventajas fiscales y económicas del Gran Ducado, al punto de estar considerado un paraíso fiscal, pues a fin de cuentas, es de lo que vive el país (un cuarto de su economía es esto).

 

(CONTINUARÁ…¡y prometemos una exclusiva!)