Nicholas Sarkozy, so sure of himself, is promising a new Treaty before the end of the year, using a very Sarkozyite method of imposing from on high a reform of the EU outlined very generally. Such an approach is doomed to fail. For the future of the Union, there are in reality only two options: do nothing until the edifice collapses, then rebuild where possible; or improve what can be improved without amending the Treaties, creating more effectiveness and therefore more trust.
Here are four fundamental reforms urgently required, without any need for Treaty change:
1. Make the EU decision-making process completely transparent – this goes for trilogues, delegated acts and implementing acts. Create a register for delegated acts, reform the Transparency Register, ensure free access to the 4-column document. A sharp break with current bad habits is necessary here.
2. Return to a more hierarchical (even top-down) management within the Commission: end the ‘silo approach’ that gives every DG unacceptable autonomy, restore the importance of inter-service consultation, get rid of all the baronies and fiefdoms, and above all reject the margins of interpretation that every unit (and even every desk officer) gives itself. In concrete terms, the Union must adopt its own Administrative Code, like every Member State has.
3. Simplify. Do not pretend to simplify and end up complicating even more (many thanks to Mr Timmermans for extra layer of complexity introduced by Better Regulation), but actually simplify. Simplify vocabulary, simplify communications, avoid exceptions and derogations. Return to the standard procedures of old; train civil servants and stakeholders accordingly.
4. Finally, learn how to communicate. What the people of Europe overwhelmingly reject is not the concept of the European Union, but the bureaucratic hodgepodge we are being given. The Commission has never been good at communicating, but today it has really got out of hand. When we see Mr Juncker looking weary, leaving the press room like a diva annoyed by a tough question, things are no longer tolerable, as this is the kind of thing citizens remember when they go to vote.
The troops march as they are commanded to, and the Commander-in-Chief is not up to the task. If we do not find a Delors 2.0 quickly, it will be impossible to continue down this road for much longer.