Richard Holbrooke: Europe is better off today institutionally than it was at any time in the last century

Richard Holbrooke

“If the EU is serious about having an effective single European voice in world affairs, it must deal with certain legacies inherited from the way it grew up. There are now [in April 2001] at least three different voices: Javier Solana (the high representative for foreign and security policy), Chris Patten (the European commissioner responsible for international relations) and the rotating presidency. The most absurd is the rotating presidency.”

“There is no question but that Europe is better off today institutionally than it was at any time in the last century. But the time has come for the Europeans to clean up their procedures, make decisions more quickly, and come to terms with the basic issues of democracy and accountability.

“If I were to suggest one single reform, my proposal would be for a single election date for the entire EU. And there should be some definition of the real role of the European parliament. Accountability through the ability of the electorate to remove officials is the key. If that power rests only at the national level, any anger can be expressed only through national governments. The voters have to believe that their voice is heard in Brussels.”

Commentary by FT journalist Quentin Peel:

“Giving the directly elected parliament more power does not have much backing from EU national leaders. Nor would it make foreign policy any easier to conduct with the US. But it is the one way in which EU bureaucracy can be made more accountable. Sometimes it takes a blunt outsider to make the obvious point. ”

In the Financial Times, 17 April 2001

About the Author