Large EU countries’ self-serving behaviour annoys Finland and other small member-states
Stubb argues the EU has never been so riddled with cliques as now
Self-serving behaviour by the large EU countries in managing the economic crisis has thoroughly exasperated Finland and a host of other small member-states.
The matter was brought up by the Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht in the Monday meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.
The Belgian minister was immediately supported by Finland’s Alexander Stubb, accompanied by the representatives of Sweden, Portugal, and Luxemburg, and even the mid-sized Poland.
“I must say I am very worried about the institutional confusion within the Union”, Stubb said during a break from the meeting.
According to Stubb, the EU is extremely tangled up in cliques. “Such a widespread example of so many separate factions cannot be found at any time in the Union’s history.”
Disagreements between the large and the small member-states are not uncommon in the EU canon. The present dispute has been brewing since October.
At that time an emergency meeting was convened in Paris by France, which led the previous rotating EU Presidency. Only the representatives of the large member countries were invited.
Last Sunday’s Berlin meeting further fuelled the discord.
In Berlin the four countries representing the EU in the G20 - namely Germany, France, Great Britain, and Italy - laid the groundwork for the London G20 Economic Summit in April.
Countries such as Luxemburg, the Netherlands, and the current EU Presidency holder the Czech Republic were also included in the meeting, but for example Finland was completely overlooked.
According to Stubb, Finland has only a very limited amount of information - mainly from its own sources - of the goings-on at the Berlin meeting. This is inspite of the fact that the meeting was specifically supposed to prepare the EU’s common policy for the G20 summit.
Around the G20 Economic Summit table, the EU Commission looks after the interest of the entire Union.
In Finland’s view, the large countries organising the special meetings keep forgetting that shared problems should also be resolved jointly.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt also announced on Monday that he takes a critical stand towards the arrangements estranging the large and the small member states.
On Monday the large member states refrained from reacting in any way to the comments by Stubb and others.
As the Presidency-holder, the Czech Republic recorded the voiced opinions as received.
The discussions on the issue will continue on the foreign ministerial level.
The subject may well also be touched upon at the member countries’ head of states’ unofficial supplementary meeting this coming Sunday.
In Stubb’s view Finland should enter the Sunday meeting “with a bold policy in mind that supports the EU institutions and the Commission.”
A finger must be raised immediately if signs of increased protectionism or agreements between individual governments rear their heads.
At the Sunday meeting in Brussels Finland will be represented by the Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen.
A strong Commission has often been considered the best defence that the EU has to offer to small countries such as Finland. It means large member-states cannot feather their own nests by stepping over others.
The EU Commission is not very strong at the moment, however, as its term ends in the autumn. The President of the Commission José Manuel Barroso does not want to upset the large member-states, for he needs their support for his re-election.
The transition phase has led to a record number of all kinds of supplementary meetings being organised, not always large vs. small. Some of the cliques defy rational explanation to the outsider's eye.
In Stubb’s view different types of “ad hoc” arrangements between governments represent antiquated international nation-state politics.
“They do not serve the interests of small countries like Finland”, Stubb concludes.