Interview with Francesca SiniscalchiEditorial 9 March 2015
Good evening Francesca, a presentation.
Good evening Damiano, I am a legal officer, I work for the EU Commission. In the last ten years I have been following legal aspects of the research policy. I have been working for twenty years for different EU institutions, starting at the Court of Justice, then Parliament, finally the Commission, where I followed different policies (health, energy, research). That said, I start this chat with you with a message to the reader that I express my opinions as a private citizen, active and interested in politics and in particular in the EU. So whatever I say should in no way be considered or referred to as being a Commission position and not even the position of Commission staff.
What’s your opinion about the actual asset of the European Union? Do you see it as a stable or an unstable machine?
Let’s say that it is a little bit early to make a definitive judgment, because the present asset has resulted from the Lisbon Treaty, in force since end 2009. Almost immediately after that the Union had to cope with the financial crisis. This was faced mainly with an intergovernmental approach (measures like Fiscal Compact for example). This method, in my view, started weakening the institutional system.
My impression is that President Juncker is oriented towards reinforcing the central role of the Commission and, consequently, of the institutions. This may explain the approach of President Juncker in the organization of its new Commission, where he had to organize the institution with a number of Commissioners (28) that was not foreseen by the original Lisbon provisions, but is a result of a later decision of the European Council, maintaining one Commissioner per Member State.
This approach of the Juncker Commission seems oriented to reinforce the added value of EU intervention in policy areas, by integrating them according to broad lines of priority, that were announced by President Juncker in his Agenda for Jobs, Growth, Fairness and Democratic Change in Strasbourg in October 2014. If you consider that this is the first time a President of the Commission is the expression of the European elections’ outcome, the new organization of the institution appears to be aiming at achieving the best possible impact of EU policies implemented by the Commission. Also the European Central Bank, led my Mr. Draghi seems oriented towards the same goal, a reinforcement of the Union (which every convinced federalist will appreciate).
We are always told by the media, everywhere in Europe, that the European Union is in a really critical phase. Do you think this is a bubble created by media or that it has some fundamental truth in it?
That would bring us to a very long discussion about the meaning of referendum and participative democracy. European institutions were perceived as a sort of challenge to the democratic transparency, which in my view was partly an impression fed by media. But the public opinion became a little bit scared by the high level of specialization (which you can call detrimentally “technocracy”) of the EU institutions.
By the way, it is often disregarded the fact that the transparency of the European institutions is in fact much greater than in many national institutions. Let’s take as an example the access to documents, which is much more difficult at a national level. At the contrary EU institutions have bound themselves by means of binding Regulations, like the one on access to documents that confers very broad rights of access to information to the citizens. I believe that access to Commission documents or information is regulated in a lot of regards more effectively than in many national public administrations. In any case, about trust in EU institutions, and in Europe in general, I believe the main problems started when the referendum about the EU constitution failed in France. That was a moment where you had to make a leap, but in fact the step that had to lead to it was stopped.
In order to progress after the EU crisis towards a federalist asset, which is, in my view, the only way for the Union to continue and progress, the Treaties will probably need another revision, and this is not as simple as it seems. So maybe it will not be done very soon. From another point of view, the international situation claims for a more unite Europe, if shared competences are not yet there. In the recent Ukrainian crisis EU talked with Russia through two leaders of important EU countries, but still representatives of single governments.
Considering what you told me, are you optimistic about the Union?
Some “older” staff tends to be more pessimistic in this sense. But the Union is not the same we knew during the last 20 years. So the institution is experiencing an important evolution. I am personally a convinced pro-European and federalist, and I hope a stronger integration will become reality. But I think that some Member States governments still look at this integration with difficulty and pessimism.
Last question. What is the first thing that is urgent for the Union?
For me, Member States have to understand that the time of national States is over. The EU has to be empowered and people have to be aware of the fact that the problems the Union is experiencing are more linked to States than to common institutions.
Damiano De Rosa
Chief editor – NEU