We might be faced with this situation sooner than we think: on Thursday Belgian Prime Minister Leterme handed in his resignation to the Belgian King due to his five-party coalition government being about to collapse with the Flemish Liberals and Democrats pulling out over the “BHV” affair with less than three months left before Belgium takes over the reigns of the EU Presidency on the 1st July.
Moral-political question: should they be allowed to run the EU Presidency? I have heard all three answers in the last 24 hours:
- Yes, of course, because with the new institutionalised troika system, Belgium will be supported by Spain and Hungary and/or in any case the country holding the Presidency is simply following the Union’s priorities so their input is minimal. Also, Belgium is known to work particularly well when there is no government in place and, hence, they will probably even do a better job with a “Caretaker government”!
- No, because how can Belgium lead from the front, find compromise solutions, broker deals and demonstrate leadership – fair point!
- Don’t know: is the majority view because most citizens are clueless about what the EU Presidency is, let alone what it is supposed to do – a sad state of affairs.
Then I heard someone comment on the radio – no fear Herman Van Rompuy – a Belgian – will come to the rescue as the President of the European Union!
The reality is that Belgium will most probably muddle through with the support of the Spanish and the Hungarians and with a structure and system which seems to just keep rolling, despite institutional upheavals such as the “NON” to the EU Constitution or the Irish No to the Lisbon Treaty.
But do we simply want to push through and hope that the institutional snowball takes us forward? Clearly not and, hence, this latest possible scenario demonstrates that Europe still has a long way to go and needs to mature…
Blaming it on the Belgians though would be unfair as other Member States like the Czech Republic have been in the hot seat without a Government.
– Russell Patten